Long, lonely lockdowns – what now? Young people have been expected to go back to schools and universities as if none of it ever happened. This article explores what loneliness actually is, its effects on our mental health and what actions we can take to fight loneliness, for ourselves and our peers.
The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is “Loneliness”. Now that the pandemic is over, only the elderly get lonely, right?
What is Loneliness?
Loneliness is a feeling. You may remember feeling lonely when you were stuck in long lockdowns. This is one form of loneliness: being physically alone when you don’t want to be. Connecting online kept a lot of us going, but there’s nothing quite like in-person human connection. So, now that you’re back in school and University, loneliness is a thing of the past, surely, right?
Well, loneliness comes in many forms. You can feel isolated even if you’re in a classroom full of people. And it certainly doesn’t only affect senior citizens. In fact, UK Youth (2018) found that loneliness is common among young people, with 82% of Youth Workers reporting seeing loneliness in the young people they work with. Here at The Diana Award, we think it’s completely normal to feel isolated and even afraid in a world that seems to be pretending the pandemic is no more.
Loneliness and Mental Health
It’s important that we understand the impact loneliness can have on your mental health. The covid-19 pandemic caused a tidal wave epidemic of loneliness. In the UK, 7.4 million people said their well-being was affected by feeling lonely in the first month of national lockdown (ONS, April-May 2020).
Many young people were at home with family during lockdowns, but this may make loneliness worse if you aren’t happy with your family, or even felt unsafe. If this was the case for you or a young person you know, you can contact the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000.
Additionally, The Diana Award Crisis text message service is here with licensed councilors to listen to those dealing with feelings of loneliness. Even if it’s just to listen and remind you that you may feel lonely but you’re far from alone. Text DA to 85258. Most people will experience loneliness at some point in their lives, especially in the strange times we are facing now.
So, with that said: what can we do about it?
If You Are Feeling Lonely: Share, Say, Do!
If Someone You Know Seems Lonely
If Your School Has Anti-Bullying Ambassadors
Bullying behaviour can make a target feel deeply isolated. If you are an ambassador or know someone who is, you could point them to our Practical Guide for Anti-Bullying Ambassadors to Tackle Loneliness in Schools. Perhaps in the next ambassadors meeting, you could discuss the following questions:
1. What can our school do to raise awareness of and tackle loneliness?
2. What can my school governors or local council do?
3. What can the government do? Don’t be afraid to draft a school letter to your local MP.
4. What can charities like The Diana Award do?
Beyond Your School or University
It starts with your school – but you have the power to take this action beyond. If you’re on social media, you can join the national conversation about loneliness happening right now. Take a look on social media and see just how many people are opening up about loneliness for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week and you’ll see that while you may be just one voice, you have the power to break these taboos and, in doing so, change the world.
Help and Support: