Mental health charity Mind launches a campaign aimed at significantly reducing the number of people feeling alone over the festive season
It’s the most wonderful time of the year – or so they say. Research from Mind in November 2016 found that people with a mental health problem are “almost twice as likely to be spending Christmas alone” than people without a mental health problem. The charity’s research also discovered that those with mental health issues can be with a crowd, but are still more than twice as likely to feel alone than other people around them (40% vs 16%).
Mind’s analysis found that while 17% of the wider population feel “lonelier at Christmas than any other time of the year”, for people with a mental health problem, the figure is significantly higher, at 39%.
Based on this research, Mind’s 2017 Christmas appeal will urge people to donate so that the charity can focus on eradicating, or at least significantly reducing, the number of people feeling alone at this time of year.
As inherently social beings, we need to feel connected to others for our own wellbeing, with loneliness being linked to depression, stress and difficulty sleeping.
A recent US study discovered that loneliness is actually deadlier than obesity, with lonely people having a 50% increased risk of an early death compared to people with a good social network. Comparatively, obesity increases the chance of dying before the age of 70 by 30%.
Stephen Buckley, Head of Information at Mind, said: “There is a lot of emphasis placed on Christmas and its significance, and there are expectations that it should be a time for celebration with family and friends. Many people in touch with Mind say that at Christmas, existing problems seem even bigger – if you are lonely, it can highlight how lonely you are.”
So, what does Mind advise?
Buckley recommends keeping in touch with neighbours, family and friends using technology, even if you can’t see each other face-to-face, and to “make the most of everyday opportunities for social contact – have a chat in the shop or at the bus stop”.
For anyone concerned about their feelings of loneliness, Mind recommends speaking to your local GP, or trying Mind’s supportive online community elefriends.org.uk. The charity also has more information on coping with loneliness on their website at mind.org.uk/Christmas.