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This month (9th – 15th May) sees Mental Health Awareness Week which The Mental Health Foundation started 21 years ago.

The aim is to educate the public about mental health issues and to promote better mental health and this years theme is Loneliness. During the lockdowns over the last few years, they found that loneliness was almost 3 times that of pre-pandemic levels. Connections with loved ones, friends, family and everyday relationships were disrupted, or in some cases broken.

Loneliness has a huge impact on physical and mental health. During the pandemic it affected more and more people. We all play a part in connecting to other people and our community which is fundamental to protecting our mental health. Reducing loneliness is a major step towards a mentally healthy society. One of the very few consolations of the pandemic is that it reminded us of our need for each other.

We all feel loneliness at times, it’s a normal part of life, but when it is chronic or long-term it can have serious effects on mental health. It is the feeling we experience when we don’t get the social connections we need or want. The feeling of loneliness can be absolutely crushing, taking away your sense of self-worth and belonging. There’s no hard and fast rule for what that looks like. The need is different for all of us. It is not about the number of friends you have or the time you spend on your own. It’s not just something that happens when we reach a certain age.

Let’s give loneliness the attention that it deserves. It remains one of the key indicators of poor mental health. Being connected to other people in a way that helps us feel valued is absolutely fundamental to protecting our mental health. Long-term feelings of loneliness have also been shown to be associated with higher rates of mortality and poorer physical health outcomes.

The Mental Health Foundation will be releasing a policy briefing on the action that can be taken by national and local governments to enable more human connection. Those ideas will be taken directly to MP’s in Westminster during the week, and also making representations to governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

There is so much you can do to help tackle loneliness. The simplest of all, get in touch with a friend or neighbour you haven’t spoken with in a while. You could be the difference between them and loneliness. Challenge the stereotypes about who experiences loneliness and how it affects us.

We also provide a range of Mental Health first aid courses that are suitable for those with a general interest in Mental Health, if you want to learn more about it. Our portfolio of training includes:

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