This week from 9th-15th May is Mental Health Awareness Week. It’s a week dedicated to shining a light upon our mental health. Highlighting to all the importance of looking after our own mental health as well as helping others.
This year their theme focuses on loneliness and the impact this has on both our physical and mental wellbeing. The Mental Health Foundation are encouraging everyone to share their stories of loneliness to help other.
Loneliness is the feeling of being unable to connect to your friends or family. You perhaps feel isolated, even though you have people around you. You are unsure of how to reach out and talk.
I wanted to share my story of loneliness. I moved abroad with my husband for a short stint. It was exciting and fun to be somewhere new. I explored every day, it was great to find new places to walk to or find something interesting to look at. But after the initial few weeks or so when we were getting to know our new neighbourhood, I realised I needed to connect to people. I didn’t have any friends or family on the same timezone and it was tough.
I had never really experienced feelings of loneliness before. I never spoke about it as felt I was given the opportunity of a lifetime and to moan about it, didn’t seem right. But looking back on it, I can see how it was affecting my mental health, I was feeling low, I didn’t have a connection and had no purpose. I used to live for the time people would chat to me on the phone or send me a text.
I hadn’t realised how important social connection was. I was unable to work as I didn’t have that kind of visa and this is where the difficulty lay. We get up and go to work, we have a routine, we chat to colleagues and hopefully have a laugh throughout the day. Take this away and right there was one of my main ways of connecting with people. I had no local connections. We went home for a visit and it was the best feeling ever. I met up with friends, we had fun and it was back to normal. My loneliness went away.
The loneliness came back when we returned, but I continued to cope and hide it well. I don’t know why I didn’t speak up about it. I am sure my friends would have helped and kept me going, I didn’t even tell my husband. I dealt with it in silence, in my head. That’s not right. I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone. We returned home a few months later and I was happy to be back. It made me realise how important my friends and family were and my home was in Scotland. No where else will ever be home.
This is my experience, there are millions of people out there who are having similar experiences right now, except they are home and are afraid to reach out. Perhaps they don’t know what to say. They feel like they can’t talk or share what is going on. The pandemic has caused so many more people to feel disconnected to their friends and family. Long periods of lock downs followed by limited numbers for meeting up, working from home, these have all contributed to feelings of loneliness.
The Mental Health Foundation conducted a study and found the level of loneliness was three times more during the pandemic that it was prior. Older people, those on low incomes, those with mental health conditions or other physical conditions are more likely to experience loneliness than everyone else.
We saw people building their community up during the pandemic. So many were checking in on neighbours and ensuring people were connected when perhaps they couldn’t meet up with relatives or friends who were too far away. We need to keep hold of the relationships we built in our locality during the pandemic, these were important for getting us through it and letting go now would be a big mistake.
This is a week to encourage people to chat about loneliness, to not be afraid to say they are feeling this way and for all of us to share our experiences. Together we can help each other and ensure we don’t experience loneliness. Please look out for those in your community that perhaps don’t have many friends of family close by. Ask your friends about when they have felt lonely. Lets get talking.
Please take care and make sure you do something each day this week and every week to look after you.
Love Emma xx