What can we do about loneliness?

Loneliness is something that everyone experiences at some point in their lives. It can be fleeting and easy to shake off but for far too many people, loneliness becomes part of everyday life.

There is no magic wand to wave when feeling lonely but there are things you can try to help you feel more connected to others.

Here are some ideas that have worked for other people. We’d also love to hear from you about what has helped you when you are feeling lonely.

You are not alone in feeling lonely

We don’t talk much about loneliness but it is experienced by many people of all ages everyday. Figures tend to focus on older people with 1 in 10 feeling lonely all or most of the time but loneliness can come at anytime during life and be triggered by lots of different things. It can be difficult to remember that other people feel the way you do and many people who have felt lonely in the past will be able to understand how you are feeling.

Take smalls steps

If you are feeling very lonely it might feel difficult to expand your circle of friends. Start with people you are closest to such as family or old friends. Having a chat on the phone, meeting for coffee or just exchanging some messages online can make a big difference.

Saying hello

We live in an increasingly busy world where often we don’t have time to connect with those around us. Simple things like saying hello to neighbours, talking to people in shops, delivery people or chatting to acquaintances can help to give you a sense of others around you. For example, someone we spoke to lately said that just talking to people in queue for the doctors’ surgery had helped them to feel a sense of belonging.

Connecting with new people

Loneliness is a tricky thing. Sometimes we can be surround by others and still feel very lonely. Often this is because we feel disconnected from those around us. Meeting new people can help you to overcome feelings of loneliness. This may seem big and scary so start off by thinking about the things that you like to do, the values you hold and the things you like to speak about. For example, if you have an interest in local history or singing, politics etc. find out what’s available in your area. Meet up groups are also a great way to find people with similar interests who welcome new members.

Helping others

When you are at a low ebb helping others might be furthest from your mind but there’s a lot of research that shows that it can help to increase your confidence and make you feel valued again. Volunteering is a fantastic way of meeting new people and you can choose how much of your time to give.

Connecting online

The Internet can, for many be a source of staying in touch and meeting new people. There are lots of different social networking sites connecting up people and forums where you can share experiences, opinions and talk online to others about things that matter to you.

Whilst the Internet can be really helpful for lots of people, please remember to stay safe online. If you are on a public forum don’t give your personal details to anyone and if feel something is unsafe then look on the website for an email address to report it to. Most social networks and forums have someone you can raise concerns with.

Telephone Communities

For people who don’t have access to the Internet or choose not to connect with people online, Community Network’s Telephone Communities are a good way to safely talk to others. We using teleconferencing technology to let people chat together in a group telephone call. All group members need is access to a telephone, landline or mobile and there is always a trained facilitator on hand to make it easy for everyone to talk together on the phone.

Enjoying spending time alone

If you are someone who is used to having lots of people around you and are suddenly spending a lot of time alone this may lead to you feeling lonely. There can be lots of positive things about spending time on your own. It can allow you to pursue hobbies or do things you’ve always fancied and give you time to enjoy things you might otherwise not get a chance to do.

Peer support

Often people experience loneliness and feel alienated from others because of something that is happening in their lives such as managing a physical or mental health condition. There are many groups who about people in such circumstances helping each other. This is sometimes called peer support.

Other sources of help

Sometimes feeling lonely can cause you to become depressed. Being depressed can also make you feel lonely. If you are feeling depressed it is a good idea to visit your GP who can talk through what you are experiencing and the best way forward.

If you are experiencing distress, despair, feel you are not coping or having suicidal thoughts you can contact Samaritans on 08457 909090 or by emailing jo@samaritans.org

Useful Links

Mind, the mental health charity www.mind.org.uk

Elefriends, supportive online community from Mind www.elefriends.org.uk

Samaritans www.samaritans.org

Childline, support for children & young people www.childline.org.uk

The Silver Line Helpline, for older people www.thesilverline.org.uk

Do-it, volunteering opportunities www.do-it.org.uk

Meet up, website advertising events and activities for like minded people www.meetup.com

Volunteering and the difference it makes

At Community Network we work hard to create volunteering experiences that offer people an opportunity to gain some positive, in return for the time, skills and effort they give. Volunteering can improve self-worth, increase confidence and can help people to gain paid employment.

Ryan, aged 21 joined the team in November 2013 as a volunteer administrator. He was really keen to get a job but lacked the work experience many employers were looking for.

“It seemed like a good way to gain skills and I thought it would be good to help a charity out.”

During his time with Community Network, Ryan’s communication skills improved and he found himself becoming more confident. He was also able to do a wide range of tasks, including collecting mail, data entry, answer phones and use software such as Salesforce.
Although sad to see him go, we were all delighted when Ryan recently secured an apprenticeship in administration. Ryan felt that his time with Community Network had helped him to find work.

“It just shows that voluntary work can make all the difference!”

Teach a man to fish…

They say if you give a man a fish, he will eat for a day, but if you teach a man to fish, he will eat for a lifetime. The same logic can be applied to approaches to addressing loneliness.

In the UK, befriending services are big business for organisations looking to tackle the silent killer of confidence, the slasher of self-esteem and the hammerer of health and well-being; social isolation and loneliness. Charities across the UK are able to provide a menu of befriending options to those enquiring about support, as one size doesn’t fit all. Some people may opt for a one off visit or trip, others like face to face befriending, some prefer befriending by telephone and an increasing number of people like to meet up together in groups on the telephone.

If you take an isolated and/or lonely person out for a day, or involve them in a one off excursion you will likely create some pleasant memories. However, it is short term, quick fix solution to a deep-seated problem.  The beauty of befriending is that it is an ongoing process focused specifically on the person being befriended. Done well, it gradually instills confidence and brings a positive sense of identity back to a person.

For some, befriending services are a big step towards feeling connected and part of a community. Telephone Communities take this one stage further, instantly giving people the chance to form multiple connections at once, yet still remain safe and comfortable in their own homes.  They can rebuild social skills, repair identities and rekindle personal interests. It is true that this happens in one to one befriending too, but the difference with Telephone Communities is that there is more than one individual contributing to that person’s life and their sense of self.  They are not a recipient of someone’s charity but rather an active agent in their own community.

Rather than giving someone a one off experience, befriending gives a person the skills to form new relationships and rediscover the identity that social isolation and loneliness has eroded. Telephone Communities go a step further, building a network of support for those unable to connect to others in their locality.

If one to one befriending is as effective as teaching a man to fish, then Telephone Communities are the universities of fishing.

Chris, Social Inclusion Manager

Job vacancy – Project Officer

We are seeking an enthusiastic Project Officer for our exciting new project, Birmingham Telephone Communities for Older People. The successful candidate will have responsibility for setting up and running per led telephone groups for over the age of sixty, leading a small team of volunteers and raising the profile of Community Network’s work in the West Midlands.

We are looking for someone who is passionate about supporting older people to stay connected to others, has experience of managing volunteers and a good knowledge of local networks and the voluntary sector in Birmingham.

The post is 21 hours per week, home based with some travel to Community Network’s London Office. It is initially funded until the end of February 2015. Salary £25,000 pro rata.

For more information or to apply for this post please visit Charity Job


Community Network Challenge Champions

Have you set yourself a challenge for 2014?

On Sunday 27th April Community Network’s Chief Executive, Angela Cairns and Deputy Chief Executive, Michelle Ballantyne will be taking part in the UFD Hackney Half Marathon to raise money for our work supporting people who are lonely and isolated to connect to others via the telephone.

We would love you to join us in running the half marathon and become one of our Challenge Champions.

It’s easy to sign up and there is no minimum sponsorship to raise. We ask that you pay the race entrance fee of £18 (£20 after 31st January) and then ask friends, colleagues and family to sponsor you.

Here’s what you have to do:

1. Sign up for the UFD Hackney Half Marathon here.
2. Then email us at fundraising@community-network.org and we’ll send you all the information on how to raise funds and tips on training.

Picture of Michelle and Angela.

Join us and become a Challenge Champion.

Join us this April, help vulnerable people stay happy, healthy and connected to others and become Challenge Champions.