The COVID-19 pandemic has left many people feeling isolated and alone, separated from family and friends to prevent the spread of the virus.
This Mental Health Awareness Week, the Mental Health Foundation is focusing on loneliness, the negative impact it can have on our mental health and how to tackle it if you’re feeling that way.
Data released by the charity suggests that one in four adults say they feel lonely some or all of the time. If these feelings persist for a long time, this can have a negative effect on mental and physical health.
Evidence suggests there are five steps you can take to improve your wellbeing and these can also be used to improve your connection to others.
Connect – why not meet up with an old friend or speak to someone new you meet?
Be Active – join an outdoor walking group or take up a physical activity class and meet new people. Check out Merton Council’s Walk4Life programme.
Take Notice – notice what is happening in the here and now, such as attending a heritage walk in your local area.
Learn – join a book group or take a course and meet new people whilst also learning something new.
Give – volunteering can help you meet others as well as giving back to your local community.
The Mental Health Foundation have a list of recommendations to help you feel more connected and to help address loneliness. Find out more from their website where you can download resources.
Dr Dagmar Zeuner, Director of Public Health at Merton Council, said:
“We need to recognise loneliness is really common and can affect anyone. The COVID-19 pandemic may have made loneliness worse but it has always been an issue that can affect us at different times in our lives. It is important that we think and treat loneliness like any other important public health issues because it can have a big impact on our physical and mental health.
“There is help out there, from community groups helping you to connect with others to services supporting your mental wellbeing.”
If you want to find support to improve your mental wellbeing there are services across the borough and London that can help:
- Good Thinking is a London-wide service, offering guidance on developing good mental health and signposting to other services you might find useful
- Merton Uplift is a partnership between the NHS and local voluntary groups which helps people over 18 to access psychological services and wellbeing support. This could include guided self-help, counselling, workshops or online courses. You can contact them by email or call 020 3513 5888.
- OneYouMerton offers a mind-plan tool to help you assess your mental health and to identify the help you need. So, if you’re anxious or depressed and can’t alleviate your symptoms, struggling to sleep or feeling you can’t cope with life, then visit their website, drop them an email or give them a call on 020 8973 3545, Monday to Friday 9am–5pm
- If you need further support Samaritans is available 24/7, by phone on 116 123, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website: www.samaritans.org
- Kooth is a service designed for young people aged 11 to 21, providing a safe space to talk about their mental health with therapists and counsellors. Visit their website for more information.