Whilst distinct, loneliness and mental ill-health are found to be strongly linked. They can exist separately but may exacerbate the other - isolation and loneliness can negatively affect your mental health, especially if these feelings last a long time, while mental ill-health can also increase feelings of isolation and loneliness if you feel stigmatised or struggle to engage in social activities.
Isolation and loneliness
A recent survey of church leaders showed that loneliness and social isolation were the most common concern within their community. What’s more, loneliness seems to be getting worse.
Churches in our diocese help to combat loneliness in ways that are both ordinary and radical: lunch clubs, community cafés, ‘knit and natter’ groups, chaplaincies, pastoral care teams, work with food banks, toddler groups, Bible study groups, and chatting after worship services.
Most importantly, we overcome loneliness through being faithful disciples in our everyday life: looking out for those who may need company, being generous with our time, and undertaking small acts of kindness which can make the difference between belonging and despair.
- Loneliness: Accident or Injustice? - Read a publication by the Diocese of Oxford exploring facets of loneliness across all ages, and telling the stories of how churches have responded.
- All the Lonely People — Read a report exploring the circumstances that lead to loneliness in later life, and how to overcome it.
- See a guide to useful publications and reports from the Campaign to End Loneliness.
- Archway Foundation supports those hurt by loneliness through a one-to-one befriending scheme and regular weekly gatherings.
- Linking Lives UK works with churches and Christian charities across the UK to address loneliness by setting up befriending schemes, training volunteers operating in community activities, and running webinars focusing on the difference we all can make in the lives of older people around us.
- Ami is an app to combat loneliness, working through existing local charities who vet volunteers and facilitate meet-ups. Why not see if you can join in?
- Pray - you can use the prompt below or your own words.
Lord, You made each of us a fragile ecosystem,
Not entire unto itself,
But vulnerable to disruption by others;
Open, needing, desiring to be loved by others.
Remind us that, just as without food and water.
We quickly fade and become weak,
So also, without others we cannot live.
And without you, there is no reason to.
We face many challenges relating to mental health in our communities and within our congregations. Young people have escalating mental health needs for a complex variety of reasons, and mental health services have been severely cut because of austerity, particularly for those in crisis.
Our gospel vision promises us life in all its fullness, and there are deep resources within our Christian tradition to enable us to make a positive and healing contribution to the world around us.
Mental health is deteriorating in our children and young people due to a range of factors, from climate anxiety to an increase in screen time. Space Makers, a Contemplative Toolkit for use in schools and churches, takes some of the ancient wisdom of the Christian tradition and assists children in navigating the world around them. Sign up to one of our 2023 training days.
Commit to praying each day. You might like to download and print the prayer below as a postcard to hand out at church or to a small group.
God of compassion,
You meant us to be both fragile and ordinary.
Silence the voices that say we are not good enough,
Haven’t achieved enough,
Haven’t enough to show for our lives,
That we are not enough.
Help us to know that we are treasure,
We are prized, we are cherished, we are loved.
Infinitely. By you.
So be with us in our corrugations of feeling:
When our hearts are in downward freefall, be with us
When our minds race with anxiety, be with us
When our throats close in fear, be with us
When sleep will not come, be with us
When waking hurts, be with us.
In the name of Jesus,
Who knew trauma, abuse, despair and abandonment
And has nothing but love for us,
Prayer by Alison Webster