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  • Writer's pictureStudent Wellbeing Service

Mental Health Awareness Week 2022 - Loneliness


This years theme for mental health awareness week is loneliness.

One in four adults feel lonely some or all of the time. There’s no single cause and there’s no one solution. After all, we’re all different! But, the longer we feel lonely, the more we are at risk of mental health problems. Some people are also at higher risk of feeling lonely than others.

For Mental Health Awareness Week this year, we're raising awareness of the impact of loneliness on our mental health and the practical steps we can take to address it.

What is loneliness?

Loneliness is the negative feeling we have when there is a mismatch between the relationships we want and the ones we have, both in terms of quality and quantity. Loneliness is feeling alone, not being alone. A person can be lonely in a room full of people. Social isolation, though closely linked, is not the same as loneliness. Social isolation is a lack of social contacts, this can be measured by the number of relationships someone has or the size of their social network. Being socially isolated doesn’t necessarily mean you feel lonely.

Loneliness in students

As a student, you will experience many life changes such as going to university or starting the world of work, making new friends, or moving away from those you are close to. Experiencing change and making life decisions can impact our sense of belonging – an emotional need to connect with, and be accepted by a group such as peer, community, religious and family groups . A lack of belonging can be linked to increased feelings of loneliness. Although anyone can feel lonely, there are groups that are at higher risk of loneliness, such as people who belong to a minority group and live in an area without many people from a similar background, people who experience discrimination because of their gender, race, sexual orientation or a disability.

“Student loneliness has been shown to be the strongest overall predictor of mental distress in the student population”

Even before the pandemic, 88% Britons aged from 18 to 24 said they experience loneliness to some degree, with 24% experiencing often and 7% saying they are lonely all of the time. University Mental Health Charter, 2019

Impact on mental health

Loneliness is very closely linked to mental health, it can be a cause and an effect of poor mental health. If we feel lonely it might lead to poor mental health and if our mental health is poor it can lead to feelings of loneliness. There are well established links between loneliness and poor mental health. In a recent review of the scientific literature, loneliness was associated with future mental health problems up to 9 years later with the strongest association being with depression.

Short term - transient loneliness

Most of us will experience this from time to time, it is usually caused by a certain situation or event, for example, a change in relationship. Loneliness can be eased through improvements in the situation.

Long term - chronic loneliness

This is when feelings of loneliness are sustained. When this happens loneliness can start affecting daily life. The longer we feel lonely, the more we are at risk of developing mental health problems.

Chronic loneliness can lead to an increased risk of: Low mood Low self esteem Poor sleep Increased anxiety Increased stress.

Tackling loneliness

Loneliness is a very common human experience and something we will all feel at one time or another. These tips have been adapted from our Unlocking Loneliness Campaign.

Explore your feelings

Think about how you are feeling and what could be contributing to this, it can be helpful to keep a journal and note down our feelings. By better understanding what makes us feel the way we feel, we can do more to learn what works for us and protect our mental health.

Good quality, strong and supportive relationships can prevent us feeling lonely and be a source of support when we do. Spending time with people we trust and enjoy spending time with is good for our mental health.

Be aware of social media

Remember to take social media with a pinch of salt, people tend to post the positive aspects of their lives, that doesn't mean they don't have feelings of loneliness. If social media is having a negative impact on your mental health or making you feel lonely, why not try unfollowing or muting the accounts that bring up difficult feelings and start following accounts that make you feel empowered.

Spend time with people you trust

Good quality, strong and supportive relationships can prevent us feeling lonely and be a source of support when we do. Spending time with people we trust and enjoy spending time with is good for our mental health.

Find your tribe

Finding people with similar interests that we can relate to will help us to feel more connected. If you are a university student, clubs and societies are a great way to meet new people. Sites like Meetup are another way to meet people who share similar interests. Go along to an event and see.

Find Balance

For some students, the increased workload of e sixth form, college and university means that it is easy to neglect looking after yourself, and making time to spend time with people you care about. Being disconnected from the people you need, and the things that you enjoy can increase feelings of loneliness. Check out the student led campaign Behind the Books.

Find new ways to open up

Talking to a friend or a professional about how we are feeling can really help. Check out: The Hub of Hope – this is a national database that shows you mental health support services near you. Side by Side, a community platform run by Mind.

People who will listen

Whether you want a quick chat or more focused help, the trained team at The Mix will be there to help. Text THEMIX to 85258.

If you are struggling to cope and need to talk, trained Shout Volunteers are here for you, day or night. Shout 85258 is a free, confidential, anonymous text support service.

Whatever you're going through, you can call Samaritans at any time, from any phone for free. They will listen. They won't judge or tell you what to do. Call free on 116 123.

One-to-one support for whatever challenge you are facing, designed for students. Text STUDENT to 85258 or go to their website for information on webchat, phone and email support.

Faith and culturally sensitive support by phone, live chat, whatsapp or email Call 0808 808 2008 7 days a week 4pm - 10pm.

Helpline and web chat service aimed at supporting transgender and gender diverse young people up to and including the age of 19, their families and professionals working with them. Call 0808 801 0400.

If you’re feeling lonely our Student Wellbeing Service can offer tailored one-to-one support to help you make sense of what you’re experiencing. You may find if your experiencing loneliness an appointment with a wellbeing advisor can help give you a space to be heard, respected and supported to find a way to manage your experience. We all experience loneliness at times in our lives and if this is having an impact on your mental health & wellbeing it is important to reach out for support. Our support can be accessed throughout the year and is available to all students studying across the university. We encourage you not to suffer in silence and reach out to your faculty wellbeing advisor as soon as you can if you are experiencing any distress. Best Wishes, The Wellbeing Team

(Article taken from )

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