Loneliness: where to get help right now

This festive season will be like no other, with many unable to see loved ones. Here’s how to get through

We’re all well aware that Christmas won’t be what many of us anticipated this year. After months of uncertainty, loss and stress, Christmas was, for many, the light at the end of the tunnel as we looked forward to joining loved ones in the festive celebrations. However, ever changing rules and guidance mean that many will now be looking for ways to deal with an overwhelming sense of loneliness at Christmas instead.

It’s important to know there is help available – 24/7 and not just over the festive period. The issue of loneliness at Christmas is undoubtedly at the forefront of many people’s minds this year for the first time with the ongoing Coronavirus situation. However, there is hope that this year of unexpected twists and turns will also shine light on the undeniable epidemic of loneliness many elderly were a victim of, long before Covid-19 entered the vocabulary, and psyche, of any of us.

Thankfully, we live in a digital age with devices that allow us to keep in touch with loved ones across not just county lines, but continents. If family and friends are contactable, utilise their company. Albeit virtual and momentary, an organised call over the main Christmas period could go a long way to easing the unwelcome sense of loneliness. But clearly, not everyone can use the technology.

If you fear for a neighbour or friend over the Christmas period who may be alone, weigh up your mutual feelings on joining forces; even in tier 4 areas, support bubbles (not social bubbles) are permitted. Understandably, many families and individuals, regardless of age, will be fearful of utilisiating the permitted support bubble system. If there is still someone you fear may be spending Christmas alone – check in on them. A phonecall, or a knock at the door followed by a considerably distanced, friendly check-in, may aid someone’s spirits this year.

If you’re looking at a solitary festive period this year, there are a number of options out there to talk over your fears and anxieties, and indeed simply hear a voice at the other end of the phone. Here are a list of organisations with helplines available:

  • Anyone in the UK who is struggling with their mental health, in a dark place or considering suicide is urged to text SHOUT to 85258. A trained crisis volunteer will then text back to initiate a conversation. This is a completely free service open to all. Their website has further information on seeking support – see here.
  • The Samaritans can be reached on 116 123, offering support to anyone struggling with their mental health over the period and beyond.
  • Specifically for the struggling elderly, Age UK’s helpline can be reached on 0800 055 6112. They offer a number of services and are committed to improving later life.
  • The Royal Voluntary Service have been recruiting volunteers to support those who’ll be spending Christmas alone. Those in need of help collecting shopping or medication can call 0808 196 3646 – more, long term, support is available through their website.
  • The British Red Cross can direct those feeling lonely to their relevant services on 0300 456 1155. They also have a guide to loneliness that can be viewed here.

For those more technologically able, there are an increasing amount of mobile / tablet apps offering non-direct help with anxieties and worries:

  • Sports Science Undergrad turned Buddhist Monk Andy Puddicombe has gone from strength to strength over the last decade with his app, Headspace. Informative blog articles and in-app guides aim to help busy minds in need of some calm.
  • Calm is another app bringing mindfulness and anxiety aid to the masses. Celebrity-read sleep stories, meditation guides and a useful blog make up the app’s offerings, which has now seen more than 50 million downloads.