Break the feeling of loneliness during lockdown

Sad young woman sitting on the window

Loneliness is recognised as a significant threat to health - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Loneliness is recognised as a significant threat to our health, and the importance of social connection and relationships has been brought into sharp relief by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Public awareness of loneliness has increased, and we recognise that loneliness can affect anyone, at any time of life. The Covid-19 pandemic, during which everyone has experienced at least some degree of separation from their family, friends and colleagues, has brought the issue of loneliness into sharp relief. Our shared experience of separation and some loneliness has perhaps made us more aware of it, especially those who are very isolated.
Normally, most of us feel lonely at some time in our life, but between 5% and 15% of people feel lonely often or most of the time. Surprisingly this figure is higher for younger people aged 16-34 than for those over 65 years. It is also common among children and young people when they change school or go to college, for many parents of young children and for those of all ages with a disability. Loneliness is higher among those with a long term illness or disability and studies show that 8 out of 10 carers feel lonely or isolated as a result of looking after a loved one. There are times when people are more likely to feel lonely, such as: living alone, having a low income, living in residential care, at retirement, when bereaved, becoming a carer, having poor health, a disability or being immobile.
Imagine the impact that Covid-19 has had upon those who were already feeling lonely! Research has shown a complex picture of lockdown loneliness. The Campaign to end Loneliness reported last October that overall levels are similar to those previously observed, but loneliness was particularly high among younger people, and significant numbers reported that their wellbeing was affected by it during lockdown. As a result of Covid-19 we now have extreme forms of isolation. These include those who are ‘shielding’, those who are clinically vulnerable, who live alone, and those who cannot use technology to connect with others and those with disabilities including sensory impairment and mobility issues.
Loneliness will be felt more keenly by those used to high levels of contact prior to lockdown, or with high expectations of being socially connected. Children and young people are missing being at school with their friends all day. Those of us who are used to going to a group or club activity every day miss those happy social exchanges. The strain will also be felt by those with caring responsibilities, many having to manage with less outside support.
Sid Valley Help and other local charities are unable to offer any of the clubs, get togethers or home visiting that we have previously offered to reduce loneliness. Organisations which have offered face-to-face contact were forced to make a rapid shift towards supporting people remotely, either by moving activities online or via the telephone, or even by delivering support over the doorstep or by post. Many local organisations have offered telephone support for their service users/members during the lockdown period.
But what about those people who do not belong to an organisation that is checking up on them and trying to maintain contact in some form? How do we reach those who are staying indoors, have no family, no internet and little social contact? Make contact with someone who you know lives on their own, write letters or cards and put them through their doors, encourage your children to draw pictures or write a note. Suggest contacting Sid Valley Help for a telephone befriender that can call once or twice a week to chat.
Lockdown will start easing when it is safe and we can encourage people to come to socially distanced groups or meet one of our befrienders outside. Sid Valley HELP can be found at www.sidvalleyhelp.org.uk or by phone on 01395 892011 or 07378 964521.

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