Fox's story: In the sticks

Fox talks about being disabled and the feeling of loneliness being isolated in a rural setting, together with being queer and trans. Not being able to connect with his friends who lived far away had a huge effect on his mental health.

My name is Fox* and I live in rural Northumberland. I’m disabled and am unable to work. My isolation and loneliness exacerbate my mental health problems.

I live in an incredibly remote part of north Northumberland. I feel incredibly lonely and isolated as a result.

I am isolated partly because of my disabilities which means I am unable to work or to easily get around, but also because there is a lack of provision in my area - lots of the groups and support systems just do not seem to reach my part of the country. I don’t have a community that understands me and sometimes that means that even trying to access support feels like an impossible struggle.

Rubbed the wrong way

I’ve been excluded from social groups for most of my life because of my autism - that just seems to rub people up the wrong way.

I am queer and trans and there isn’t really a community where I live at all. Not being able to connect with people like me has a huge impact. When I’m struggling I’m not able to talk to anyone who has the remotest understanding of what I’m experiencing, and it is exhausting to have to explain my suffering and how I feel when I’m in need of help.

I’ve lived here for ten years and the only time I could really socialise was when I was at school. It wasn’t ideal because my friends who lived in towns and villages could see each other much more. No one wanted to visit me because I was over an hour away from most of them. I don’t think it was intentional, but I was definitely excluded.

Getting anywhere meant relying on the family car and lifts, but that’s tricky because we’re a big family and they were often busy.

I’ve always been lonely. I live a mile and a half from the nearest bus stop and even when I was at school most of my friends lived more than 10 miles away. The buses only run four times a day, and you can never be sure that the bus will even turn up.

So close but so far

I have a number of really close friends, but most of them live at the other end of the country. It’s really frustrating not to be able to spend time with the people I really want to see. It has had a huge hit on my mental health and self-esteem.

I suffer from a variety of severe, long term and complex mental health problems and when I’m not at my worst I want to be doing things and be with the people I care about. And when I’m not able to I feel a sense of personal responsibility and like I’m wasting my good - or less bad- times.

Being isolated exacerbates my mental health conditions. I can’t get anywhere to get help and I can’t talk to anyone either.

Feline friends      

My partner provides support when I’m feeling low and I enjoy watching films and playing board games.

My cats are a huge part of my life. I’m obsessed with them and they are a real comfort when I’m feeling low. Sometimes it’s not just the people around you who can make a difference - our pets can be the support we need.

*To protect his confidentiality, Fox is an alias.

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.

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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.

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