Catch up over a cuppa this Mental Health Awareness Week - Some tips if you are feeling lonely

Next week is Mental Health Awareness Week and the theme for this year’s event is ‘loneliness’.

Samaritans are encouraging you to rebuild meaningful connections with family, friends, colleagues and within your community.

You could catch up over a cuppa, either in person or online, reconnecting with people you have lost contact with during the pandemic.

Marie, the director of Ballymena Samaritans, explained: “Loneliness can affect any of us at one time or another.

Catch up over a cuppa this Mental Health Week

“Samaritans recognise that loneliness can be both the driver for, and a product of, poor mental health.

“With the easing of the restrictions during the Covid pandemic, some of us may be trying to reconnect with family, friends and work colleagues.

“The world is changing fast.

“The pandemic has given rise to a sense of loneliness and isolation, which can undermine your personal confidence in daily routines.

“You may have had limited access to family, friends and colleagues.

“You may be looking forward to meeting up, socialising or getting back to the work environment.

“However, some of you may be struggling with returning to your ‘usual’ pre-pandemic life.”

If you are struggling with loneliness, isolation, or the stresses of life, Samaritans are always ready to listen and support you whenever you need them.

It may be easier to talk to someone who you don’t know.

You may feel that you are the only one struggling, who is not coping.

Mental Health Awareness Week is all about supporting yourself, and each other, to support and manage your mental health and wellbeing.

“If you need support, contact Samaritans on 116 123 or via email at [email protected] – you will be listened to without judgement and in confidence,” Marie urged.

Loneliness can be difficult to cope with and can start to affect your mental health, making you feel sad, depressed or giving you feelings of low self-esteem.

Sometimes, if you are already struggling with your mental health, it can be difficult for you to interact with your loved ones in the way you usually would.

This can make you feel isolated and lonely, even when you didn’t feel that way before.

Things you can do if you are feeling lonely:

- Not everyone is a social being, some people are comfortable being on their own, everyone is an individual and you should feel comfortable with who you are. Everyone should focus on loving and caring for yourself. Spending time alone might not seem fun, but the more time you spend doing things you enjoy and being kind to yourself the more confident you will feel. It’s OK to have time just for yourself.

- Express your feelings. It is important to find ways to express yourself, even if right now you don’t have people close to you who you can talk to. Keeping a journal can help you to track your mood and reading over it might help you to see things that keep happening in your life which you might need some help with. Some people like to express themselves through drawing, painting, music, fashion or sport.

- Join a club or gym. You don’t have to be good at something to give it a go and enjoy it. A regular hobby with other people can help you build new friendships and have fun. It can feel really nerve-wracking to turn up to a new place, especially if the people already know each other, but you’re likely to find people who are very happy and willing to help you settle in.

- Try volunteering. This can be a great way to learn a new skill, give back to your community, feel good about yourself and meet people passionate about the same things as you.

- Follow your passions. If there is something you absolutely love there will be other people out there who feel the same. Whether that’s an online fan forum or a local writers’ group, find ways to connect with the things you love and you might be surprised about what opportunities that leads to.

- Reach out if you’re struggling. Talk to someone you trust. It could be your parents or wider family members, like older cousins, aunts or uncles. Outside home, it could be a teacher, a neighbour or a close family friend. You can also speak to your GP about how you are feeling. They can listen, tell you about local services and support groups, or they may suggest specific treatment for the way you’re feeling.

Marie continued: “If you feel that you do not want to burden your family, friends or someone who knows you, then volunteers in Samaritans offer a listening ear.

“Opening up to a stranger may be easier than talking to someone who knows you.

“Anything you say is treated in confidence.”

If you would like to find out more about the service provided by Samaritans, contact the Ballymena branch on Tel. 028 2564 4846 or email [email protected]

There are eight Samaritans branches throughout Northern Ireland which can be contacted in confidence, 24 hours a day on 116 123.