Sheffield residents are calling for unity to tackle ‘loneliness’ during Mental Health Awareness Week.
The campaign is ran by the Mental Health Foundation, which has grown into the biggest awareness week across the UK for over 20 years.
The week will have the theme of ‘loneliness’ for this year, which calls for people to focus on the impact of loneliness and the risks of it becoming a mental illness.
Zimo Wang, 22, a student from the Sheffield Hallam University, who has been diagnosed with separation anxiety disorder, shared his experiences.
He said he started with a feeling of isolation when he left home to study abroad, and it turned into a mental problem without much intervention.
Mr Wang said: “I was afraid to tell my family because telling people you are lonely means being unwanted and defeated in my culture.
“There is a need to raise awareness of loneliness and provide ways to help address it to prevent further mental health problems.”
Research by the Mental Health Foundation UK shows that full-time students are one of the groups at higher risk of feeling lonely, with 26% of students reporting loneliness during the pandemic.
Even before the pandemic, 88% of Brits aged 18 to 24 said they felt lonely to some degree.
Kathy Marwick is the organisers of ‘friendship lunches‘, a project which has ran around Sheffield, Rotherham and Barnsley for over seven years.
She aims to help socially isolated people deal with loneliness and be connected as a community.
Mrs Marwick said: “Loneliness is not precluded just to the elderly – people can find themselves lonely and socially isolated for many reasons.
“Only about 20 men showed up at the 250 people gathering, less than a tenth of the total. Perhaps because of the stereotype that ‘loneliness equals weakness’, especially for younger men.
“It’s harder for them to express their innermost thoughts, which is detrimental to their mental health.
“People always need to feel supported by others, and it might be a good idea to take part in a lunchtime event and talk to people.
“Everyone should be aware that feeling lonely is a normal thing and that it’s ok not to be ok.”
Many mental health support options are available in Sheffield. Click here to find out more.