Lonely or Isolated?

We all have times when we can feel lonely and isolated – for all kinds of reasons.

It can happen when you find it hard to be with other people – at home, at school or at the weekends. You might find yourself finding reasons to stay away from other people – missing school, gigs or parties.

Other times, it can happen because people seem to be avoiding you. You might have lost touch with friends and be finding it hard to make new ones.

Sometimes you might feel alone when you’re around lots of people. It can feel as if there’s a big glass wall between you and your friends that you just can’t break. You might feel that people don’t really know you, or as if you have to hide what’s going on in your head.

You might feel isolated because other people just don’t seem to understand what’s going on for you – the depression, anxiety, paranoia, voices, visions or other worries. Talking to other people might be scary because you’re worried that they’d laugh at you or make fun of you.

The good news is that there are ways of beating these feelings and connecting with other people. As alone as you may feel, lots of other people have been where you are now.

The next few pages include some ideas that can help you make a start:

  • Feeling good about yourself
  • Finding a connection with other people
  • Getting out there again

Feeling Good About Yourself

A good place to start is finding ways of building up your confidence and self-esteem. Feeling alone and out of the loop can really affect how you see yourself. So, if you feel bad about yourself and really self-conscious you might find it hard to relax around other people enough to enjoy their company.

Here are some ideas that might help:

Treat yourself as you’d treat a friend

When we feel bad it’s easy to be really hard on ourselves. We can say things to ourselves that we’d never say to a friend – calling ourselves stupid, ugly, useless, thick and all kinds of names. If you find yourself treating yourself badly, it can help to think what you’d say to a friend if they felt the way you do. It’s easier to be kind to other people than it is to be kind to ourselves.

Write your top 10

We’re all unique and we all have some skills and talents that other people will like. The problem is that when we feel lonely we can forget why anyone would want to spend time with us. So, why not write a list of 10 things that are good about you? If you’re struggling to think of 10 things, talk to someone you trust.

Spend quality time with yourself:

If you feel lonely, you can spend a lot of time worrying that you’re not with other people. While you’re building up your confidence and starting to meet people again, it can really help to spent some quality time with yourself.

Think of some of the things you like to do, or would like to try. Write a list and go through it. You might want to learn to play the guitar, try your hand at cooking something nice, discover some new music or write a book. Big or small, it doesn’t matter. The key is to start living a life that you feel good about. Once you start to do this, making friends is allot easier.

Problem-solving

If you feel like your confidence is low, it can help to tackle it head on. Write a list of the things that are making you feel less confident about being around people – big or small. Once you’ve got a list, go through them and choose the one that feels the most important to you.

Next, make a list of all the things that could help to solve this problem. If you can’t think of much, don’t worry – there are other people you can ask for ideas too (your parents, the school nurse, a youth worker or someone else you trust). You can ring Childline (0800 11 11) too.

Getting some extra support

If you’re having real problems with the way you feel about yourself, it can really help to talk to someone about it. Whether it’s a counsellor, therapist, teacher, nurse or social worker – there are lots of people who are trained to help you find ways of getting your confidence back.

If you’d like to speak to someone you could ask at school, your GP or your family. There are lots of places you can get the support you need, and lots of people who will help you to find it. Again, if you’re not sure who to turn to call Childline for some ideas (0800 11 11).

Finding A Connection

If you feel really lonely, you might think you’re the only person in the world who feels this way. Voices, visions, self harm, depression, obsessive thoughts, eating distress, anxiety, psychosis, breakups, paranoia – whatever you’re struggling with there are other people who are struggling with it too.

Connecting with others who share your experiences can help you to realise that you really aren’t alone in all this. More than that, hearing about others who have got through their own struggles can help you to top up on some much needed hope and courage.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

Read other people’s stories

Reading the real life stories of people who gone through experiences similar to you own can really help you feel less alone. Luckily, there are lots of things like this out there – if you know where to look.

Online: Voice Collective’s Personal Stories and In The News pages, Intervoice’s People’s Stories section, Young Minds’ Real Life Storiessection, Rethink’s website’s blog pages (written by young people affected by mental distress) and Reach Out (an Australian site with lots of personal stories).

On paper: You can find Living With Voices: 50 Stories of Recovery, Children Hearing Voices and lots of other books by people who have been through their own issues by looking in online bookshops (like Amazon). Just search for whatever issue you’re struggling with.

It can take time to find the right book, but once you do find it you can either get it from the store or see if your local bookshop or library can get it for you.

Join a good online forum

If you don’t know anybody who is going through a tough time at the moment, or you’re finding it hard to talk to people, joining a good online forum can be a good place to start. It can help you to build your confidence, get to know new people and share your worries and wisdom with others.

It’s worth making sure that the forum you join is supportive, friendly and well looked after – there are lots out there and some really aren’t good places to be. When you find one you’d like to join – spend a bit of time sussing it out.

Childline’s message boards and The Site’s discussion boards are good safe places to start.

Join a peer support group:

A peer support group is somewhere you can meet other people who are going through similar things to you. They are a good place to make friends, share your experiences and feel connected to other people.

There are peer support groups for all kinds of issues – including our Voice Collective groups for young people who hear, see or sense things that others don’t. Other peer support projects include: BASH and GirlsXpress (for young people who self harm), PACE‘s groups for young people questioning their sexuality, the Zindaagi project for young Asian women who are vulnerable to self harm and/or suicide and Islington Mind’s New Horizons group for young people (16-25) who self harm.

Problem-solving

If you feel like your confidence is low, it can help to tackle it head on. Write a list of the things that are making you feel less confident about being around people – big or small. Once you’ve got a list, go through them and choose the one that feels the most important to you.

Next, make a list of all the things that could help to solve this problem. If you can’t think of much, don’t worry – there are other people you can ask for ideas too (your parents, the school nurse, a youth worker or someone else you trust). You can ring Childline (0800 11 11) too.

Getting Out There

If you’re feeling lonely and split off from people around you, you might find that you avoid being around people at all. Spending time on your own can be a helpful way of coping with confusing voices and strange experiences, but in the long term it has a big downside. The more time you spend away from people, the harder you can find it to start meeting people again and making friends.

The good news is that there are plenty of places of meeting new people. All of these give you the chance to build up your confidence and find people you enjoy hanging out with. Whatever you’re into, there are like-minded people out there. It’s just a matter of finding them.

If you want to meet new people, here are a few ideas:

Youth Clubs

There are lots of different youth clubs in London, and every young person should be able to access one. They offer a range of activities, programmes and services – from just hanging out and playing pool to trying out a new skills (like Dj-ing, climbing or first-aid). Each club will have different opportunities, so it’s worth finding one that suits you.

To find a youth club near you: check out the DirectGov website (you can search by postcode, road or borough). Your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau, Connexions or Library are also good places to look.

Sports & Activity Groups

Joining a group can be a great way of meeting new people, especially if you find drop ins a bit scary. If you’re with a group of people that don’t really know each other and are doing something together, it can be easier to find things to talk about. If you’re really worried, it can give you the chance to be around people without feeling the need to talk all the time.

Have a look around for groups and activities near you. Music, drama, tennis, basketball, dance, film, art … choose something that catches your interest. Try the DirectGov website, Connexions, your local council or the library for some ideas of what’s on offer.

Youth Involvement & Volunteering

Getting involved in your local community gives you the chance to meet others and really make a difference. There are lots of youth volunteering and involvement projects around, so look for something that inspires you.

Why not try:

V Inspired is a website set up to connect 16-25 year olds with volunteering opportunities that matter to them.

UK Youth Parliament site is set up to support young people (aged 11 – 18) to change the world for the better.

Young London is the Major’s website for young londoners. It has info on ways of getting your voice heard in your local community.

Young Minds run VIK (Very Important Kids) and Healthy Heads. They both give you the chance to tell them what you think about emotional health issues