Mental Health Awareness Week 9th-15th May
Loneliness and Mental Health
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, and its focusing on the link between Loneliness and poor mental health.
We can all feel lonely from time to time. It' a normal human emotion, something that everyone experiences. Maybe we have been spending too much time on our own? Or havn't seen friends and family for some time-this was particularly difficult in the pandemic as we all suffered the loss of familiar routines and faces. We disconnected from our usual face to face social networks. Sure, we could still connect on social media but its not the same as connecting in person.
Let's think a bit about loneliness that is a result of bullying in this post.
Bullying, social isolation and loneliness
One way bullying occurs is by deliberately excluding someone from a social group. Humans are social beings, we thrive when we belong and collaborate and cooperate together. Sometimes though a person gets ostracised or cut off from a group, maybe being left out of a group discussion in class, or not being invited to join in. Sometimes people start Gossiping about someone and saying things that are not true, or spreading nasty Rumours that leads others to ignore or turn away from the person, like deliberately sitting away, or rolling your eyes at someone.
If this happens to you, it can be a painful experience. It can bring up uncomfortable feelings like: Feeling rejected, shamed, embarrassed or humiliated. These are difficult feelings to handle -they can make you feel bad about yourself and then you start to think negatively about yourself like 'there is something wrong with me', or 'no-one likes me', or 'I'd better just stay on my own, it's safer that way' and if we are unable to process the feelings and redirect our thoughts we may start to withdraw or hide away, or become sullen, or stop eating or start cutting and things like that to try to get some relief from the painful thoughts and feelings.
Sometimes, it's hard to name what you feel, it just feels painful, maybe its a sensation in your gut or heart, or a headache or stomach ache or you feel sick. So you want to stay off school to avoid the situation happening again. It takes practice to notice sensations, reflect on experiences and Name things accurately, but as Dan Siegal says (famous neuroscientist) You have to Name it to Tame it
If you are experiencing social exclusion and being shunned by others It might feel like a lonely place and maybe a bit scary too.
Lots of people who have experienced bullying can find themselves isolated and alone. It may be more difficult to feel you can trust people in case you end up being hurt again, or you might be a bit scared thinking what if they turn on me the same way the bullies did? Joining in a group or taking the risk to join a sports club or activity may make you feel a bit anxious or fearful because of past experiences. Starting a conversation with a new potential friend might feel daunting.
So, the after effects of a bullying experience can present you with some stresses and new challenges to overcome. You don't want to be bullied again but neither do you want to be stuck on your own all the time. You have a dilemma. It goes something like this "If I stay on my own, I need never be hurt again but then I'm lonely, unhappy, or sad and I'm missing out on lots of activities I would really like to have a go at" Or "I can risk connecting again with others but there is a still a chance I might get hurt again".
What might help you CONNECT and build your confidence:
Use technology to help you connect as this you can do from the safety of your home. Connect with family members and any friends. Join an online group. For example here at Spiral we have a peer community you can join, and take part in games nights and quizzes. You can meet other young people who may have similar experiences to you and make new friends. You can find instructions on how to join the peer community on our youtube link youtube-@spiralcumbria
Have some support sessions here at Spiral to help you get better at recognising and naming feelings and to recover from past bullying events and the problems you face-contact us to make a referral. You can work with us online or in person and have up to 6 sessions.
Spend time connecting with nature-get outdoors and enjoy the natural world. Go on a nature day with a family member with something like the Cumbria Wildlife Trust who have lots of free events. Check out their website and see what you might like to do https://www.cumbriawildlifetrust.org.uk. You can take part in new things, join with others and build your confidence
Being Human, it's not possible to go through life without sometimes getting hurt, experiencing uncomfortable feelings or hurting others ourselves. To think I should be happy all the time is just not realistic. Bad things do happen to good people. Learning how to manage our thoughts and feelings more effectively so that they have less power and influence over us and learning how to live well in spite of the things we suffer, guided by values is something we can all learn with support and practice. That way you can be Your Best Possible Self, and be a Victor rather than be continuously Victimized by a past event and/or the thoughts/feelings that bother you afterwards..
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