I’m Libby, I’m 22 and I live near Wakefield. For the last four years, I have worked as a carer in the community. I have experienced loneliness myself and also amongst those I helped throughout the pandemic, many people’s mental health deteriorated during this time.
I’ve had poor mental health in the past. I was caught up in the Manchester bombings in 2017 and that really impacted my mental health, I was scared. I had therapy which helped, but when the pandemic happened and we all had to keep ourselves apart, I felt really excluded and alone. People were scared and everyone kept themselves at home - it was what we had to do.
Keeping a positive mindset
Personally, I found it tough, I felt very lonely and it was hard to keep positive. I was constantly on my phone and talking to friends. Because of the therapy I’ve had, I knew that I had to keep my mind busy. Even when I felt low and like I didn’t want to talk to people I tried to keep those connections going. When you’re on your own, it’s easy to feel like you don’t want to do anything.
It’s my job to help people. As a companionship carer, I see people in their homes, I’m in that community and I feel that connection.
It was upsetting to see how quickly people deteriorated during the pandemic. We did lots of welfare calls to keep in contact and try to keep people's spirits up, but the loneliness was crippling. Even people with no previous experience of poor mental health were really low and depressed. A lot of the people I care for told me that they felt they weren’t supposed to be here anymore.
I felt really vulnerable - I could see people suffering and I couldn’t help them in the way I wanted to, because we were all stuck at home.
Alongside feeling lonely myself, I also felt really guilty. I wanted to help and do more but I physically couldn’t because I was already giving as much support as I could. We all need human connection and my way of coping was to speak with my family and friends.
I did my best to keep in touch with everyone, give them ideas and encourage them to do things. I think it’s important to keep your mind busy and keep a positive mindset.
Little things matter
I know when I talk to people through my work, even if it’s only for half an hour, I can have a big impact. We’ll do a jigsaw together, or have a chat about something we’ve seen on the telly. Little things matter and something as simple as a conversation can make a big difference.
There’s always someone to talk to - even if it’s just over the phone or on a video call. You’re never on your own - you have to put your trust in the person you’re talking to and get things out. I always feel better when I can express myself and say how I’m feeling, even if it feels scary.
And when you share your own feelings, you can ask other people how they’re doing too. I like to get my friends' thoughts on things, I ask if they have ideas to help. It means we can work together to make a plan and make things better.
I found strength in trying to support other people. Prioritising my friends and family, and making sure that they were ok gave me purpose and something to focus on. I’m not sure I realised it at the time, but by looking after other people, I was looking after myself and those connections helped me to feel less lonely.
Feel the sunshine on your face
Keeping your mind busy and finding something to do is helpful.
To anyone who is lonely now, and feels that their mental health is suffering, I’d say take a moment. Take a deep breath and make a call. Talking to someone and making that connection is so important.
And it’s important to remember that this feeling of loneliness won’t last forever. There is a future. It’s springtime now and summer is around the corner. Get outside and feel the sunshine on your face - there is still enjoyment to be had and things that make us smile.
Mental Health Awareness Week 2022
Mental Health Awareness Week 2022 took place from 9 to 15 May with the theme being Loneliness. Loneliness is affecting more and more of us in the UK and has had a huge impact on our physical and mental health during the pandemic. Reducing loneliness is a major step towards a mentally healthy society.
If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health, know that you're not alone. There are a number of organisations you can get help and support from. Visit our 'Get Help' page for more information on where to go to get mental health advice and support.