As Loneliness Awareness Week begins, Bryan Woods talks about the importance of “Connection”

Loneliness Awareness Week banner

Loneliness is a very personal emotion. But it is something that many of us will encounter at some point in our lives. It also has a broad spectrum; it can be anything from a temporary feeling of loneliness, to long-term chronic loneliness.

Unfortunately, loneliness can still be something of a taboo subject in our society. People are sometimes reluctant to talk about feeling lonely. They feel they will be judged as ‘failures‘.

Loneliness Awareness Week does much to counter this stigma. It was established in 2017 by Marmalade Trust. This is the only charity in the world that is specifically dedicated to raising awareness of loneliness.

This year, Loneliness Awareness Week, runs from 12th June to 18th June, and emphasises the importance of connection: “Connection Matters”. Its aim is to raise awareness of loneliness by getting people to talk about it. Over the years many individuals, charities, organisations, NHS Trusts, and Government departments, have become involved in Loneliness 
Awareness Week.

There is no doubt that loneliness is a significant issue in this country. In 2021, the Health Survey for England was published by NHS England. This found that one in five people in England (22%) reported feeling lonely at least some of the time. In addition, 6% reported that they often or always felt lonely, (chronic loneliness).

It has been found that loneliness can contribute to increased stress, low self-esteem, and sleep problems. Loneliness can also exacerbate some mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

Loneliness can be caused by certain factors. One example is social anxiety. This is when a person may feel so anxious that they struggle to interact with other people. Having personally suffered with this, I know it can cause an intense feeling of isolation.

Life issues or circumstances can also sometimes make people more prone to loneliness. These include having a long-term health condition or disability, being unemployed, losing a partner or spouse, and living alone.

There are a number of resources available during Loneliness Awareness Week. The NHS website has suggestions for things people can try to help with loneliness. There is also a link to Mind. They provide further information, including a link to Local Mind where there is information about peer support services and online support.

I am a Volunteer Peer Support Worker with Havant & East Hants Mind. I help to run weekly Peer Support art groups, and a virtual Coffee and Chat group. These groups provide a safe, welcoming space where people can get together and socialise.

Age UK in partnership with the charity The Silver Line offer a free Telephone Friendship Service. This is available to those who are experiencing loneliness in later life. A Face-to-Face Befriending Service is also available at many local Age UKs. This involves a Volunteer Befriender visiting an older person in their home. This could be for a cup of tea and a chat or accompanying them to an activity.

Hammersley Homes also help to combat loneliness and isolation through their Outreach Services. These consist of a Home Visiting Programme and a Telephone Support Programme.

Loneliness Awareness Week helps to break down the barriers surrounding this often hidden issue. To borrow an old advertising catchphrase – “It’s good to talk“.