THE Beatles, back in 1966, encouraged us to “look at all the lonely people”. More than a half-a-century later, we should still heed their call. Loneliness is commonplace in Scotland with one in four adults saying they felt lonely some or all of the time in the last month. Yet, despite its prevalence, we’re unable to talk about it.

Loneliness is not about the number of friends we have, how much time we spend on our own, or something which happens when we reach a certain age. It’s the feeling we experience when there is a mismatch between the meaningful social connections we want and those we have. When experienced over a longer period of time, loneliness can damage our mental health leading to anxiety and depression.

Despite so many of us being affected (78% of adults in Scotland have experienced loneliness over the last year), more than half of us (51%) hide feelings of loneliness from others. Many of us feel ashamed by our feelings of loneliness or can’t bring ourselves to admit it.

Perhaps this unwillingness to talk comes from a fear of being judged or suspicions that our loneliness is self-inflicted or due to a personality failing. We look around and it seems like everyone else is living their best life and it can make us feel inadequate and lonelier.

That’s why, this Mental Health Awareness Week, we are exploring loneliness, it’s impact on our mental health and what we can do to tackle it. We want to open the conversation about loneliness and are inviting people to share their experiences with the tag #IveBeenThere.

By doing this, we hope to help reduce the stigma and send a powerful message to people who may be struggling that loneliness is not something we need to manage alone. Indeed, we all have a part to play in addressing loneliness – as individuals, communities and governments.

If you are feeling lonely, it can help to keep busy by doing things you enjoy. Try to use social media in a positive way by finding digital communities with the same interests as you and try to find people who “get” you.

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To support others who are feeling lonely, you can help by making groups you are part of as welcoming as possible and be available to listen and show understanding. Don’t judge or stigmatise someone who has said they feel lonely, it’s a really tough thing to admit and that person has taken a huge step by being open about their feelings – don’t dismiss them out of hand.

Loneliness is serious. It is a significant public health issue, a sign of poor mental health, and we need more than the goodwill between people and communities to overcome it. We need investment for population-level supports.

Our local and national governments must take action to help reduce social isolation in our communities with investment in quality community spaces, organisations and groups to create more opportunities for people to connect. Our research for Mental Health Awareness Week asked people what could be done to address loneliness and more than four in 10 (46%) said new or improved community-based clubs and activities in the local area where people can meet in person would help.

But first, we must talk about it. We encourage everyone to get involved in Mental Health Awareness Week and share their stories of loneliness that have been kept hidden.

Eleanor Rigby and Father McKenzie would thank you for it.

Visit for more information and advice about loneliness and mental health #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek