BLOG: “The reality is that anyone can feel lonely…”
This week is Loneliness Awareness Week.
Advanced Public Health Practitioner Jayne Cook reflects on how loneliness can affect anyone and looks at some of the organisations which work in Liverpool to bring people together.
Loneliness affects all of us at one point or another, it’s a difficult feeling and often complex to unpack. Some of my loneliest times have also been the loveliest, after you have a baby there is so much to be grateful for, but it can also seem like parts of life, work and friendships leave you behind and feeling lonely, it can be a rollercoaster of highs and lows.
The reality is that anyone can feel lonely, regardless of where we live, or how many people we see. Loneliness can come from being physically distanced from others, but it can equally come from feeling emotionally disconnected from those around us.
Loneliness Awareness Week, which is run by The Marmalade Trust, is from 12–18 June and focuses on the importance of connection.
Loneliness can feel different to everyone, it can be fleeting, or long term. It can happen at certain times of the year, or after a significant event like a bereavement, a break up, or even after having a baby. The important thing to focus on is that there are always things we can do to feel better.
The post-natal period stands out for me personally and because for all new parents it is a sensitive and critical time when you need all of your physical and mental resources to care for – and connect with your baby – which makes support with things like loneliness especially important.
For new parents in Liverpool who may be having some of the same feelings that I did, we have worked hard in Public Health over the last 12 months to bring together support for new parents to improve their wellbeing and build strong, happy and healthy relationships with their baby in the new Parent Baby Wellness Service. Under this redesigned service more people can get support when they need it and by linking in with the development of Family Hubs in Liverpool’s Children’s Centres we can open up even further to help prevent issues emerging in the first place. This means we can support parents to access everything they need in one family friendly place, whether it be connecting with others, or accessing specialist support with loneliness and other factors that impact mental health.
Of course, loneliness doesn’t just affect new parents, it can affect children, young people, men and women of any age, and especially those living in vulnerable or marginalised communities.
Fortunately, the solution to loneliness – finding ways to connect, has a very positive impact, not only by reducing the distress associated with loneliness, but by actively boosting positive thoughts and feelings leading to good mental health.
When I felt lonely, I chose to throw myself into any opportunity I could to be with other parents of new babies. It was a struggle to push myself to connect with people I didn’t know, but it was worth it. We found a space and time to talk and offload about the many challenges of babyhood, to share ideas about possible solutions and most importantly to celebrate our beautiful little babies. By reaching out I helped myself and others to feel better.
Connecting with others isn’t always simple, especially if you have been feeling lonely for a while and may feel anxious about the idea of spending time with others. The reassuring thing to know is that there are lots of other people out there looking to understand and connect, maybe someone you know who may not realise how you feel, or someone else dealing with feelings of loneliness. All you need to do is find ways to reach out and whilst it can be difficult to talk about, sharing our feelings of loneliness can encourage others to talk too.
In a vibrant city like Liverpool there really is something for everyone to get involved with. There are many community organisations that exist just to bring people together and there are celebrations and festivals that we can take part in. I’d encourage everyone to challenge yourself to find a group that sparks your interest or a place you can volunteer and make a difference whilst connecting with others.
We also work closely with The Life Rooms who are a local organisation that aims to help you live the best way you can. They can help with all kinds of issues that might impact your mental health including ways to tackle loneliness and connect with others, and they have timetables of regular community activities that anyone can join. There is more info at www.kindtoyourmindliverpool.co.uk
What’s really important to understand, is that opening up about the way we feel isn’t burdening someone, most people feel better about themselves when someone trusts them enough to reach out and they are able to help. This is the main message behind our Reach Out Liverpool campaign which encourages anyone facing a mental health crisis, or concerned about someone else, to reach out. To all the warm and welcoming communities of Liverpool this Loneliness Awareness Week – carry on meeting for teas and coffee, stay and play, or getting together to do something active, interesting or creative whilst thinking about how to involve those who may feel lonely and anxious about joining in. And for parents and pupils alike – let’s encourage a culture of kindness at school. You never know what a huge difference the smallest gesture could make to someone who may be struggling alone.
The Life Rooms is a local organisation that aims to help you live the best way you can. The team helps with all kinds of different issues that might impact your mental health including ways to tackle loneliness and connect with others, check out their timetables of regular community activities.
Everton in the Community has recently launched The People’s Place which supports anyone, regardless of age, gender or location, to promote positive mental health. Their programme of activities can be accessed on their website or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.