I have been thinking recently about the importance between mental health and the feeling of isolation.
I was speaking to a family member who described her recent realisation that, because of the network of support she has around her; her parents, sister, boyfriend, and extended family and friends, she could “be on the other side of the world, without a dime, and be okay”.
To clarify this remark, she explained that she knew that, no matter how difficult a situation she may find herself in, she has a network around her that would support her, ensuring she would never be completely desolate, no matter the circumstances.
How ‘Contact’ combats Isolation
In the therapy room I often observe that those, who may be going through one of their bleakest periods but who feel connected to others, can anchor themselves in the present and use these connections to support themselves through these dark times.
It is a fact that contact with others, no matter your personality, is a good thing when it comes to going through difficult periods in your life. However if, on top of being in a dark place you are also feeling isolated, these bleak periods will feel much darker and harder to cope with.
Connection is the key word here.
A support system does not have to be blood relatives. Many people, for a variety of reasons, do not have this or do not feel connected to their family. The important thing is that you feel you have someone, individual or group, that you do feel connected to.
The form or nature of these connections be they family, friends or perhaps an informal gathering such as an allotment group or evening class, can work. It is this connection that will be a foundation of the support for you throughout the variety of emotions experienced in life.
BBC Radio 2 recently broadcast a week of programmes, plus supporting information on their website, that focused on loneliness. Many of the programmes are available as podcasts to download and the website has helpful information that will continue to be available, see the links below.
During this week of broadcast the BBC highlighted some of the many reasons that loneliness can occur; bereavement, becoming a parent, the isolation that suddenly being at home alone without your work or social support network can bring, or the loneliness that can occur in your youth as a result of leaving the support of family and school friends when attending university. A theme that ran through this week of programmes was that, although you may experience loneliness for a variety of reason, you do not have to be isolated and unconnected.
Having a ‘Connection’ with others means that although you can be feeling alone or lonely, for example having lost a partner through death or a break up, you nevertheless still feel connected to other people. You may be experiencing the loss and the pain of being without that person, but, with the connections you have, feel protected from complete isolation. This connection will mean, over time, that you do not stay stuck within that pain permanently.
It is often said that the most important aspect of counselling and psychotherapy is the therapeutic relationship between the therapist and the client. This is, in part, because of the importance of connection. If you feel understood by an individual, the problem you are experiencing will automatically feel lighter. This does not mean this problem is solved, but rather, through a connection with another, you have been heard and understood and you are no longer isolated with what you were experiencing.
Do you feel connected or isolated?
I work with clients who feel lonely or isolated due to many different circumstances, and help them to find the support that they need through connections with family, friends or groups. Counselling for loneliness with Rachel
Some helpful links and information on coping with loneliness or feelings of isolation
For more information on the BBC’s week of programmes and information on loneliness & Isolation
UK Mens Sheds Association
For more information about the ‘Men in Sheds’ movement