What can family and friends do to help?

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

You may be worried that a friend or relative is lonely, perhaps because they are socially isolated or because someone has told you they are lonely. You may not be able to resolve this for them but there are things you can do to help.

Keep in touch

If you think, or know, that someone is lonely – for example, after a bereavement or relationship break-up – a small gesture, such as inviting them for lunch, or even just saying hello, can make them feel less alone. If someone lives far away or you are too busy to visit, make whatever contact you can. Phone, email, text or Skype to let them know you are thinking of them.

Show your support

Be aware of how your behaviour might impact on someone who is lonely, and think about how you can be more supportive and encouraging. For example, if you cancel a date that your friend or relative was looking forward to, it may have more of an impact on them than you realise. Or you may want your friend or family member to meet new people in their area but, if you are negative about the activities available, they may not want to go.

You can also support someone in building a social network. Be encouraging about opportunities for social contact and find out what activities or groups there are in their area. Go with them to a class or group for the first time if they feel nervous. If transport is an issue, you could help your friend or family member get a bus pass or work out their local transport network.

Listen

If someone tells you that they feel lonely, despite seeming to have lots of friends and social contact, talk to them about why they feel like this and listen to their feelings and concerns. Help them feel that someone cares and wants to understand.

If you are worried that someone’s loneliness is because of a mental health problem, or might become one, talk to them about what might help. This might be going to see their GP, getting a talking treatment or joining a support group.

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