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Mental Health Awareness Week: Tackling loneliness

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week (9 – 15 May), an opportunity to raise awareness and take action.

The strong and continuing impact of COVID-19 has been tough on people’s mental health and, whilst remaining restrictions were lifted in February, the two years of isolation periods and social distancing has highlighted just how much loneliness affects people.

The World Health Organization (WHO), ‘loneliness’ is “the pain we feel when our social connections do not meet our needs.” ‘Social isolation’ is “the state of having a smaller number of social contacts, which may contribute to loneliness.”

Over recent years, we’ve all experienced significant changes. Society is transforming, and the pandemic has led to daily routines being completed at home as tech advances. For example, we now don’t need to travel to see healthcare professionals, and hybrid/remote working has become immensely desired. Whilst this is all convenient and cost effective, on the flip side, tech is enable us to do so much from our own homes.

According to WHO, one in five (20%) of workers feel lonely on a typical working day, which has led to 23% agreeing that this has affected their mental health.

And, the Mental Health Foundation (MHF) said one in four adults feel lonely either some or all of the time. “There’s no single cause and there’s no one solution. After all, we’re all different! But, the longer we feel lonely, the more we are at risk of mental health problems. Some people are also at higher risk of feeling lonely than others.

The MHF are raising awareness of the impact loneliness can have on our mental health and offering practical steps we can take to address it. “We’re encouraging people to embrace the changes in society and our working lives whilst building meaningful connections with friends, family, colleagues and communities.”

Their campaign asks people and organisations to consider their individual and unique contribution towards tackling loneliness, isolation, and “the barriers to connection.”

Here’s what you can do:

Raise awareness

Help people to understand links between loneliness and poor mental health, and actively check in on those around you at work and in your communities.

Invite conversations

Research advice, information, and conversation starters to foster conversations about mental health. Provide safe and welcoming spaces to talk and support each other.

Volunteer your time

Keep in touch with loved ones and support lonely people.

Ask others to act

Raise these issues within your community and encourage more people to act.

Support:

Perennial is the UK’s only charity dedicated to helping everyone who works in horticulture, and their families, when times get tough. For confidential advice, support and financial assistance, to people of all ages working in or retired from horticulture. Call them on: 0800 093 8543.

If you’re a manager looking for guidance around supporting colleagues with different working arrangements, or just looking to support your peers, check out Mental Health UK’s new guidance on supporting home and hybrid workers.

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