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Health and wellbeing / Women's Health

Mental Health Awareness Week 2022: Loneliness


Mental Health Awareness Week is an annual event in the UK to bring the focus and support needed to achieving good mental health for all. Loneliness is affecting more and more people in the UK, across all demographics, and has a large impact on both physical and mental health. Isolation has become more widespread, especially during the pandemic, so this years' theme is raising awareness of the impact of loneliness on mental wellbeing and the practical steps we can take to tackle it.

 

Accessing Psychological Therapies

GPs are often a gateway to mental health services, particularly for those with more complex needs. However, all geographical regions have depression and anxiety services (often called IAPT) that are self-referral – you do not need to go through the GP. IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) services offer:

  • talking therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), counselling, other therapies, and guided self-help
  • help for common mental health problems, like anxiety and depression

More information on where to access IAPT services.

 

Useful Guides

Getting back to 'normal'

The past couple years of being in and out of lockdowns, has for some, made the feeling of loneliness worse. Though social distancing and lockdown measures have eased, loneliness can still remain. And for those feeling left behind, it may continue to grow. 

 

These feelings may likely pass with time, but it's important to do what we can to take care of our mental health in the process.

There are lots of things that can help you to manage these feelings and make it easier to adjust.

Here are our top tips for taking care of your mental health, whilst adjusting back to ‘normal’ life:

 

 

  1. Go at your own pace

     

    Take it one step at a time and only do what is comfortable for you to get back into socialising. Then you can build your time back up with others as your confidence returns. 

     

  2. Challenge unhelpful thoughts

     

    It’s natural to feel worried and alone but learning to identify your unhelpful thoughts can help you find a more positive way to look at your situation. 

     

  3. Tell someone how you feel

     

    The chances are someone you know feels exactly how you do too. Opening up to a person you trust can be really helpful to have that extra support you may need.

     

  4. Find a routine that works for you

     

    Life became lonely in lockdown, and we all developed new routines or lack thereof. Maybe try going for a walk a few times a week and say ‘hi’ to people you come by. A smile and a hello can always brighten someone’s day.  

     

  5. Focus on the now

 

When there is lots going on we can easily get caught up worrying about the past and the future, and this can make us feel low. We can even worry about bad days that have not even happened yet. Mindfulness can be used as a tool to help you slow down and focus on the now.

 

 

Check out these resources:

 

Nurse Lifeline - If you feel like you may need someone to talk to Nurse Lifeline is a peer-led listening service for all nurses, midwives, CSWs, students, and for their families and friends. This is a confidential service where you can access to offload and decompress by speaking to a member of their team.

 

 

Headspace - As an NHS employee you can sign up to access Headspace Plus at no cost. Headspace are here to help you live a healthier, happier, more well-rested life with just a few minutes a day. To find out more and for extra support and tips, check out Headspace here.

 

Calm – Do you want help with improving your sleep quality, or to reduce stress and anxiety? Check out the Calm app here.

 

Rethink Mental Illness - offer a wide range of resources providing access to a variety of services which include telephone advice lines, local network groups, online content, and more. In these challenging times, we encourage all our bank members to make their wellbeing a priority. 

 

Podcast – Hear from Caroline Foran, host of the ‘Owning It’ podcast as she talks about the anxieties of returning back to normal life.

 

Recognising loneliness in patients

While social isolation and loneliness is most often attributed to older patients, younger adults are also presenting with feelings of loneliness, particularly after experiencing the pandemic and the lockdowns that resulted from it.

People who were thought to be at a lower risk of feeling isolated, were thrust into a situation outside of their control and were unable to seek out meaningful connections with people for long periods of time.

Reduced social contact can lead to a reduced quality of life, feelings of depression and can also impact overall mental wellbeing.

As healthcare professionals, coming in to contact with potentially vulnerable people, it is important to recognise how loneliness can present in patients and how we can best support them.

 

Physical presentations:

Weight gain

Tiredness/lethargy

Less effort into maintaining personal hygiene and appearance

 

Behavioural presentations:

Verbal outpouring

Jumping from one subject to another

Prolonged holding of your hand/physical contact

Defeated demeanour

Tightly crossed arms or legs and other body language showing distress

 

If you believe you may be treating a patient suffering with feelings of loneliness and self-isolation, reach out to the ward manager for any resources that they may have available for patients.