Mental Health Awareness Week 2022

This year’s focus for Mental Health Awareness week is Loneliness.

There’s a difference between being alone and feeling lonely. As a child, I loved my own company. I was pretty much an only child because there is a six-year age gap between my sibling and me.

So, I learned how to be creative and entertain myself. One of my favourite things was to line up my dolls and pretend to ‘teach’ them. (I had always wanted to be a teacher – “Once a teacher, always a teacher”).

In my twenties I changed. I developed this fear of being alone… perhaps down to the fact that I lost my mother aged 17 and became very afraid. I cultivated lots of friendships and liaisons some of which, looking back were not good for me, but I realise that was because I needed to fill that void.

Now I am older and wiser and have healed from that tragedy, I have reverted to type and I can enjoy my own company again. I understand the difference between being alone and loneliness. You can feel lonely with people around you. That can happen in a relationship when you struggle to connect with your partner, or you could be lonely at work – perhaps you are a newbie trying to get to know your team, or you might be working remotely and don’t have much contact with your line manager or your team.

I remember the times I felt lonely. It was a scary feeling. I felt as though I was alone in the world, did not feel able to talk to anyone about my feelings, and felt no one would understand what I was going through.

I felt sorry for myself and felt like everyone else was living their best life and I wasn’t.

Now I know that we are all human and no one’s life is perfect.

I have also learned that nowadays with the access we have to technology, we do not need to experience loneliness.

If you feel lonely take time out to make new friends, and join a group or a class for something you enjoy doing. I believe in lifelong learning, I am curious, and that zest for learning has given me focus and helped me to get through some challenging moments. If you feel bad, seek help, seek therapy. There’s no shame in that. It’s better out than in. There’s plenty of help out there and lots of organisations that can support. Some online groups and forums can make you feel like part of a community.

Try self-care. Self-care is my superpower. It doesn’t need to cost much. A bottle of bubble bath, a candle, and a lovely cup of tea or a glass of wine with music in the background are all you need. If you belong to a gym with a spa, that’s your free steam, sauna, and jacuzzi right there.

As a HR professional, I would be remiss if I did not mention anything about loneliness at work. With many of us working remotely now, whilst we extol the benefits of flexible working, we must not forget the importance of connecting with work colleagues. We need to be intentional about creating time to meet, replicate the impromptu chats, pick up the phone and talk without setting up a meeting.

Remember you are never alone. I will leave you with some useful information about combatting loneliness, published by Mental Health Foundation.