Loneliness and mental illness are closely linked (Picture: Getty/Metro.co.uk)
We know that the pandemic upped levels of isolation, and, as a result, loneliness.
But now lockdowns are over, loneliness hasn’t magically gone away.
Why? And what can we do about it?
That’s what we’re exploring in this week’s episode of our mental health podcast, Mentally Yours.
‘There’s one in 20 people in the UK who say they often or always feel lonely,’ says Catherine Seymour, head of research at the Mental Health Foundation, who are behind Mental Health Awareness Week. ‘For them, their lives feel like they’re always locked down.’
Chronic loneliness has a damaging effect on our mental health – but also, mental illness can cause loneliness… it’s a worrying cycle.
‘Severe loneliness and mental health are interlinked and make each other worse,’ Catherine explains. ‘Sometimes it’s hard to know which came first – did the loneliness lead to poor mental health or did poor mental health lead to loneliness?
‘People who say that they often or always lonely have a higher risk of developing certain mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety, and being lonely is also associated with increased thoughts about suicide.
‘So it’s certainly something that we need to take very seriously.’
All this is why the theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is loneliness, with the aim of raising awareness of the reality of the issue, and getting us talking about how we make people feel less alone.
Catherine discusses this, from the impact of loneliness to tips on how we can tackle it, in this week’s episode.
‘Absolutely anybody can experience loneliness,’ she tells us. ‘The definition we use is that loneliness is the mismatch between the relationships that we have, and the relationships that we want to have.
‘You can feel lonely even if you’re married, you have children, you have a wide network of friends.
‘If there’s a disconnect for you, between what you have and what you want, whether that’s in quantity or quality, then loneliness is possible.
‘Loneliness can come from being surrounded by people, if you feel those people don’t understand or accept you.’
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