Have you every felt all alone, isolated or lonely? Have you ever found yourself with no-one to turn to or talk to?
I have felt that way several times in my life and when I was asked to appear on Sky News Sunrise last week to talk about Male Loneliness it brought back a lot of personal memories. The interview was following the new findings discovered by the cross-party Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness which has a Spotlight on Men for a month from the 3 May – 4 June.
I jumped at the chance of being involved, as this is an issue very close to my heart having been through a significant period of loneliness myself. When my multi-million pound IT Recruitment business failed in my twenties, not only did I find myself losing my business, but I also found that most of the people I considered to be my closest friends turned there backs on me and my support network crumbled away. The loneliness and stress I went through in this period resulted in an attempted suicide and my mental health was seriously affected. The emotional pain of my experience and the feeling of isolation was all too much to bear and I sought the ultimate permanent solution to a temporary problem.
As we mark Mental Health Awareness Week this week, it is a real reminder for us to consider how much loneliness affects peoples mental health. It is a sad statistic that the leading cause of death in men under the age of 45 is suicide. The study by the Jo Cox Commission discovered that an estimated eight million (35%) men feel lonely at least once a week, whilst for nearly three million (11% it’s a daily occurrence. More than one in 10 men also say they are lonely, but would not admit it to anyone. It is perhaps a sad indication about the society we live in that of the men that had experienced or are experiencing loneliness the average age to feel most lonely was 35 and that nearly one in 10 men (9%) do not see anyone on a regular basis.
But how does this all tie in with mental health? Well men who are, or have been lonely, say it makes them feel isolated (39%), depressed (35%) and less confident (27%). There is no doubt then that loneliness does have an impact on people’s mental health yet we still live in an age where, technologically speaking, we are more connected than ever before, yet loneliness is on the increase.
And workplace loneliness plays a role in the equation – one which is being increasingly recognised, but it’s one we don’t want to talk about – who wants to be the person who opens themselves up to derision by announcing their feeling of isolation to their colleagues? An academic study in 2011, by professors from California State University and Wharton School of Business, explained why workplace loneliness matters. After surveying a sample of 672 workers, Hakan Ozcelik and Sigal Barsade concluded that loneliness at work has a “significant influence on employee work performance, both in direct tasks, as well as employee team member and team role effectiveness rated by both the employee’s work unit members and supervisor”.
But how prevalent is loneliness at work? In August 2014 Relate released a study suggesting that 42% of people do not have a close friend at work. Not all of them are going to be lonely, of course, but a chunk of them are. And given that the same survey found that “we’re almost as likely to have daily contact with our colleagues (62%) as we are with our children (64%)”, then it’s evident that what happens at work has an impact on our wider attitudes to life.
Across the HR function attitudes are widely recognising that employers should be involved in tackling mental health issues and loneliness by creating support systems, EAPS, more social activities and fun cultures to engage employees. But it can’t just end there – there needs to be training to help recognise the calls for help and to remove the stigma and ignorance that surrounds mental health, which is why we are delighted to see so many organisations rolling out Mental Health First Aid training.
If you would like to talk us about Mental Health First Aid Training for your organisation or would like a FREE consultation to discuss where you are in your wellbeing journey and what more you can do simply email [email protected]
For more information on Mental Health First Aid, click here.
No-one needs to feel lonely and the better we get at engaging people meaningfully the quicker we can eradicate this serious challenge to our mental health and wellbeing from our companies, communities, social circles and families.
Have a wonderful day!
Chief De-stressing Officer
Tel: 0203 142 8650