So, it is May which means it’s Mental Health Awareness week, but there is not a buzz around it. Yet, this year’s focus is loneliness.
One in Four Adults feel lonely some or all the time. The impact of loneliness can be significant. Yet very few will talk about it.
I was intending to write this blog filled with statistics, but honestly, if you feel lonely do these numbers matter? Probably not, these are only useful to the people who don’t feel lonely. Instead, I wanted to highlight how my Mental Health is impacted by loneliness.
Those that know my story, or my Assistance Dog Ziggy will already know I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This is as a result of my service as a Combat Medic in Iraq.
During my time in the military, I was exposed to significant stress and at times wondering if I would survive as mortars land nearby and bullets flew over my head while I and others treated casualties of war from all sides.
Subsequently diagnosed with PTSD in 2009, after several years suffering in silence. I have continued to grow and learn about my Mental Health, its limitations, and how to turn a negative into a positive.
However, there is always a however. Over the years prior to my diagnosis, and after feeling extremely lonely. At one stage being homeless by definition and cooking on a BBQ crassly made from a sink and some bricks. Still working, yet nobody knew. I would go to work and even with people around me I felt like the loneliest person in the world.
Nobody could imagine what loneliness is, until you feel it, live it, and realise that you are feeling lonely. Even today, at times I can walk into a room or even an office, and with the hustle and bustle, feel like I am alone. It’s not unusual, it’s not embarrassing, it is life. Having spent over 14 years living with something defined as a mental health condition it has without doubt been challenging.
How do you talk about mental health? How do you tell someone you feel lonely? Well having avoided it for years the best thing to do is just say it. As Nike used to say Just Do it.
The stigma of mental health is diminishing, there are support networks out there that never were before. There are resources available for people to seek support and give support.
I am now able to speak openly about my mental health and my struggles, this took time. Always remember, ‘You can’t compare yourself to anyone as you will never see what is on the cutting room floor’.
What can you do?
There are a number of resources available, this year’s campaign by the Mental Health Foundation – can be found here https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week
Speak up, reach out. This works both ways Because together we can tackle loneliness.
Need to talk about your mental health? Some resources are listed below.
• MIND: 0300 123 3393
• Samaritans: 116 123
• CALM: Outside London 0808 802 5858, inside London 0800 58 58 58