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This Mental Health Awareness Week, the theme is loneliness and how it can impact on our mental health.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, a survey of UK adults showed that 1 in 4 of us had felt lonely in the previous two weeks. Feelings of loneliness were higher in younger people with 38% and 34% of people aged 18-24 and 25-34 reporting that they had felt lonely in the same period.
Feeling lonely from time to time is normal. We all feel lonely sometimes, even when we're with other people. But longer-term loneliness and isolation has been shown to contribute to mental health conditions including anxiety and depression. And people who are already living with mental health issues can be even more affected by loneliness; due to stigma and discrimination, or the effects of mental illness making it more difficult to connect with others.
It's okay to feel lonely sometimes. You might be feeling that you shouldn't be lonely - but don't feel guilty for having these feelings.
We've got some suggestions below for how you can combat loneliness.
Sometimes, taking more notice of your surroundings can help you to feel less lonely. If you're feeling isolated, getting out of the house and even just talking a walk can help you to feel more connected to the world around you.
We have walking and photography groups in our Downpatrick, Belfast, Newry and Ballyclare services. Although these walks are in groups, why not try getting out and taking your phone with you? Look for interesting things to photograph - nature, houses, people - and think about how you are part of the world, too.
Sometimes we forget that we have people we can turn to. Or we might want to make new connections.
It's important to take time to take care of yourself. Feeling overwhelmed and stressed can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation.