What can family and friends do to help?

This section is for friends and family members who want to support someone they know who is feeling lonely.

You may be worried that your friend or family member is feeling lonely, perhaps because they are socially isolated or because someone has told you that they are feeling lonely. You may not be able to resolve their feelings of loneliness entirely but there are ways for your to alleviate their feelings of loneliness.

Keep in touch

If you think, or know, that someone is feeling lonely, a small gesture, such as inviting them out for lunch, or even just saying hello through a text message, can make them feel less lonely. If that person lives far away, or you are simply too busy to visit, make whatever contact you can, even if it’s through a screen, to let them know that you are thinking of them.

Show your support

Be aware of how your behaviour might impact someone who is feeling lonely, and think about how you can be more supportive and encouraging. If you cancel a date that your friend or relative is looking forward to, for example, it may have more of an impact on them than you realise. As another example, if you appear offhandish or uninterested in the activities available in the area, you may be indirectly discouraging your friend or relative from going out and meeting new people in the area.

You can also support someone by helping them build their social network. Be encouraging about opportunities for social contact and find out what activities or groups are in their area. Offer to go with them to their first social class or group if they feel nervous. If transportation is an issue, you could help your friend or relative by mapping out the most convenient route to the social activity, and help them obtain the necessary resources, such as an Octopus card.

Listen

If someone tells you that they feel lonely despite seeming to have lots of friends and social contact, ask them why they feel lonely and listen to their concerns. Help them understand that someone does care for them and does wants to understand their feelings of loneliness.

If you are worried that someone’s loneliness is a result of a mental health problem, or that someone’s loneliness might become a mental health problem, talk to them about what might help. This might be going to see a general practitioner, accessing talking treatment, or joining a support group.

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