Unite Against Loneliness: How you can help make a huge difference to someone’s life

09 Oct 2020
By Unite Students, Staff writer at The Common Room

It’s time to take action. Loneliness is a feeling we’ve probably all felt at some point in our lives, and maybe still do. But it’s something that we can tackle together.

Our individual actions can make a difference to how we or someone else is feeling. That’s why, on the eve of World Mental Health Day, we’re launching our Unite Against Loneliness campaign.

We want to tackle loneliness and we need your help. We spoke to Student Minds about what we can all do to help each other right now.

We know from our own research in 2019 that almost a quarter of first year students often feel lonely. That’s a substantial number of people, and it’s a number that may rise as the new university year begins, especially when you consider the need for social distancing at the moment.

With that in mind, we’re challenging you to help us tackle loneliness. Don’t worry, we’re not asking a lot. Even small and simple actions can go a long way in helping yourself and others feel better.

In this article, you’ll find some ideas for how you can make an impact, as well as advice for what you can do if you’re not feeling great yourself. Let’s tackle loneliness together. Let’s make change happen.

How to spot someone who may be feeling lonely

You might think that loneliness is easy to spot, but it’s not necessarily limited to someone who spends time alone. Everyone can suffer from loneliness or a feeling that they don’t quite belong in a group.

Sure, they might spend a lot of time in their room. But equally, somebody who feels lonely could spend a lot of their time in your flat’s living area. They might even seem like they’re one of the most sociable people you know. So it’s important to be aware of how others may be feeling, show respect and offer support whenever possible.

What we can all do to tackle loneliness

If we all take small actions, we can tackle loneliness together. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never felt lonely, don’t currently feel lonely, or are currently feeling lonely. There are small steps that each and every one of us can take.

Feeling okay? Help people around you. It really is such an easy thing to do, yet it can have a huge impact on how someone else is feeling. Here are a few ideas how:

  • Start conversations with people you don’t know that well
  • Be open to new friendships
  • Check in on flatmates that spend a lot of time in their room
  • Support a friend, while making sure you look after yourself too
  • Plan nights in with your flat, even if you’re not all best friends yet
  • Find similar interests with flatmates, coursemates and neighbours and bond over them
  • Don’t be dismissive of other people that may be trying to speak with or get to know you

Or how about this? Take five minutes every day to have a conversation with someone you’re not particularly close to or ask if someone’s okay. They’ll appreciate it, and it could be the start of a brilliant friendship.

What if I’m not feeling great myself?

But what if you’re currently feeling lonely yourself? Well, there are some steps that you can take too. Student Space is an initiative that’s led by Student Minds. It has a host of resources and ideas designed specifically to help students that may be struggling against a backdrop of Covid-19.

For a start, the expert team at Student Space recommends making the most of your old network of friends. Make sure you stay connected with friends and family at home by organising regular catch-ups over FaceTime or Skype. Having these virtual gatherings with people you know and trust can have a really positive impact on your wellbeing.

Another idea that Student Space suggests is to take a structured approach to making friends. This might seem like a strange concept, but it actually makes a lot of sense. If you work out exactly how and who you can make friends with you can start putting a plan in motion. As part of this, you can target different groups you may be connected with, including coursemates, flatmates and people from societies or clubs.

Above all, remember that it’s okay to be finding things tough. You are not alone. Everyone has a different experience of university, but there will undoubtedly be people in the same position as you.

In fact, the Student Minds Blog has a number of stories from students about how they’re coping with loneliness themselves. Find out how Lottie coped with loneliness as a student, or read about how it took Trina time to find her place at university.

How you can get help if you’re not feeling great

Sometimes it’s tempting to keep everything inside when you’re not feeling great, but this can actually make you feel worse. So what can you do?

Well, you might find it useful to speak to a friend. Even if they’re just there to listen, speaking about how you’re feeling can be a massive help. They could even be feeling the same.

Don’t want to speak to a friend? That’s okay. Your university lecturers and wellbeing services are also there to support you, as are the welfare teams in Unite Students properties - simply get in touch with reception if you want to have a chat.

Student Space is another great resource that’s available to you. It’s dedicated to helping you through these uncertain times and on the website, you’ll find tips and advice, plus information about how you can get help from your university.

Student Space also gives you the opportunity to get free, confidential support via phone, email, text or webchat. Someone will be there to listen.

Or you can get in touch with an organisation called Nightline. Run by trained student volunteers, Nightline is a UK-wide listening service that’s free, confidential and open through the night during term time. It gives you the opportunity to talk to someone about how you’re feeling without fear of judgement.

Just remember, you’re not alone and this feeling won’t last forever. Use the network around you, no matter how close you are to them. Sometimes just a chat and a laugh can start something better.

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Staff writer at The Common Room