WATCH: Ramsay Beattie talk to Eloise Vajk about support for loneliness and isolation
For some people lockdown has been a chance to refine a zoom-wardrobe consisting of a smart top and PJ bottoms. But for many of us it has been challenging to say the least – separated from family and friends, with dark dreary days to boot.
Ramsay Beattie talks to Eloise Vajk, Policy and Planning Assistant at Perth and Kinross Council, about the common experiences of isolation and loneliness during the pandemic.
Eloise notes these are new feelings for people, and for some they may never have experienced previous mental health issues concerning loneliness. She explains that as a result many don’t have coping mechanisms set up beforehand and are unsure how best to address these concerns, if at all.
She also highlights the important point that whether you’re by yourself or with family, loneliness ultimately comes down to not feeling understood or cared for by people who are around you, no matter the amount of people you live with.
We’ve established these unpleasant feelings are new for many and, being surrounded by family doesn’t necessarily mean you’re exempt from loneliness. But how does Eloise suggest we tackle this?
The good news is there are plenty ways to counteract this. One suggestion is to reflect upon daily routines. If it is a lack of meaningful social contact the first step is to validate these feelings. Following on from this, one of the most important ways highlighted is to embrace the wonders technology can offer.
New ways to stay connected but freshen up video chats, could include: friend dates, involving picking a film to watch whilst on the phone together, virtual board game sessions and even dinner dates, where you eat a meal and chat together.
Some friends, however, are hard to get a hold of. Eloise suggests the value of checking-in and having an open, honest conversation. Even if it’s just a quick call, reaching out to them and showing you care, can mean a huge amount.
It may be easy to forget our own mental well-being and feelings of loneliness. Eloise notes some proactive steps that can be taken to help ourselves cope, such as: joining new communities, starting a new hobby you fancy trying or returning to an old favourite and re-connecting with old friends and relationships.
These steps are great ways to provide coping mechanisms – but what if they aren’t enough? Eloise advises utilising the support services offered by the council. If you’re worried about mental-health, there is a directory of a wide range of mental health organisations, including: The Samaritans, the local NHS Tayside Community listening service, and Breathing Space. Whilst people may underestimate their mental well-being concerns, and brush it under the rug, a preventative approach is better to take. For those who feel they’re not in a crisis, but struggling in general, many organisations offer a safe space just to chat. Above all, mental-health struggles are a serious burden to carry alone – sharing feelings with others, whether it’s family, friends of a support service – is a great way to combat loneliness and isolation.
Lastly, Eloise encourages us to bear in mind it is a temporary situation that’s not going to last forever – the breath of new life and sunshine that Spring offers, is nearly around the corner…