Loneliness is a safeguarding issue.
Marmalade Trust is a charity that raises awareness of loneliness and helps people to make connections. Their vision is to create a society where anyone can talk freely and openly about loneliness.
When someone is lonely, they can take more risks and make different decisions to those they would usually make .
Being lonely can increase an individual’s risk of abuse. For example, someone who is lonely might be more susceptible to grooming or financial abuse because of wanting to make connections with others. In this case, loneliness could become a safeguarding issue.
It is important that people can speak about feeling lonely, are aware of initiatives to tackle feelings of loneliness and know how to get support should they need it.
What is Loneliness?
‘Loneliness is a perceived mismatch between the quality or quantity of social connections that a person has and what they would like to have’ (Marmalade Trust).
Anyone can experience loneliness. You don’t have to be on your own to feel lonely. People can become lonely for many reasons, but the pandemic has meant that may people have experienced loneliness for the first time.
You might feel lonely in a relationship or while spending time with friends or family – especially if you don’t feel understood or cared for by the people around you. Other people might choose to be alone and live happily without much social contact.
What can you do if you are feeling lonely?
- Organise a weekly video call with friends or family
- Start or join a virtual book or film club
- Spend some time in nature or tend to some indoor plants
- Have a cup of tea with your neighbour (while maintaining appropriate distance)
What can you do to support someone who is lonely?
- Not everyone has internet access, you could send a letter or postcard to someone isolating by themselves
- Reach out to a friend to remind them you are always there to talk
- Talk with friends or family about their experiences of loneliness during lockdown
- Encourage them to access support from one of the organisations named in this blog
What can you do to feel more connected at work?
As more of us are working from home or seeing fewer people at work due to distancing restrictions, many people are missing the social connections with colleagues.
Alongside practical challenges of working at home, people may also be struggling to overcome the emotional difficulties of offering support services to at risk groups when their colleague support network has been removed.
Try to implement some of the ideas below to feel more connected to your team.
- Host a weekly social to catch up with colleagues
- Encourage employees to reach out to their HR manager if they are feeling lonely
- ‘Meet’ a colleague for a virtual coffee or lunch
- Ask how the people you work with are finding the change in routine
How can you support young people who are feeling lonely?
- Ask young people to share what they know about loneliness
- Explore when or why people might feel lonely
- Discuss what might help someone who is feeling lonely
- Draw a picture of what loneliness feels like
- Remember to discuss loneliness openly and positively – loneliness is normal and common.
What organisations can support in overcoming loneliness?
- Age UK have lots of resources on overcoming loneliness and supporting others. They also offer IT training to help you feel more connected and befriending services.
- Mencap are offering a befriending service to support those with learning disabilities. Email email@example.com to find out more.
- The Marmalade Trust have excellent resources to support you in feeling more connected
- Mind offers free advice via phone or email for people experiencing loneliness.
- Mind have developed a working from home wellness plan to support your mental health when working from home.
- The NHS provide information and advice to support you with loneliness.
- The Campaign to End loneliness has lots of resources, information, and support in overcoming loneliness across the UK.
- The Connection Coalition is encouraging organisations to collaborate to overcome challenges such as loneliness that are increasing because of Covid-19.
- The Ann Craft Trust have advice on supporting your wellbeing during the pandemic.
Loneliness can impact our general physical health, as well as our mental health. If you, or someone you know is experiencing long term loneliness, reach out to one of the support services above or make an appointment to speak to your GP.
Most people experience loneliness at some point during their life. There are initiatives and organisations that can support you in feeling more connected.