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Mental Health Awareness Week - Loneliness

The Mental Health Foundation started Mental Health Awareness Week 21 years ago and continue to set the theme, this year’s theme is ‘Loneliness’.

The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is ‘Loneliness’.

'What is the true meaning of loneliness? Loneliness is the state of being alone and feeling sad about it. You can be alone - and enjoy every minute of it. But from time to time, most of us experience loneliness. It's a feeling of sadness or even anxiety that occurs when you want company. On the other hand, it is possible to feel loneliness in a crowd, especially if you aren't interacting with others, like in a crowded train or busy shop. Even a place can have a sense of loneliness, like an empty room just after all your guests have left.' (Vocabulary.com)

Since the pandemic began, loneliness has been affecting more and more children and young people and is having an impact on both physical and mental health.

We have put together some worksheets to support educators in facilitating difficult conversations with children and young people around general wellbeing and relationships in particular. These worksheets focus on the topic of friendship and important people.

  • Chatterbox activity: this worksheet and activity is a fun way for a child/young person to explore all the people that help them and support them (i.e. ‘When I feel lonely’ the answer could be ‘talk to Emily’ (my friend), or ‘tell my mum’, or ‘message Ben to game online’.) Encourage children and young people to write down different people/ideas for each prompt/number, include as many helpful people as possible.
  • My Important People: this worksheet is a visual way that a child/young person can show you who is in their network (family, friends, neighbours, school staff). This worksheet is a tool in being able to explore who a child/young person sees as important to them, who their close relationships are with and how they view the people around them.
  • The Importance of Socialising: read this worksheet and discuss with young people - begin reflecting on the importance of socialising with peers, the positive wellbeing aspects that stem from socialising. A possible activity after reading and discussing the worksheet could be brainstorming thoughts/feelings on a sheet, or creating a plan of action (i.e. join a club/group, plan a day/time to meet up with friends, explore ways to start conversations with peers whom they have just met - see 'Talk about yourself and ask questions' worksheet).
  • Talk about yourself and ask questions: this worksheet is a way to explore how to begin conversations with new people - 3 questions you could ask someone new, 3 things you could tell someone about yourself. A possible activity after reading and discussing the worksheet could be role playing these questions; this can aid the children/young people in being better able to remember these questions, preparing them for situations when they might meet new people.
  • Circle of Control: uncomfortable feelings are often triggered/increase when focusing on the things we don’t have control over. It is important to support children/young people to feel empowered and confident by focusing on the things that are in their control. Explore their circle of control relating to friendships and/or the challenging feeling of loneliness. Encourage child/young person to choose self-care, talk to someone they trust, consciously focus on positive thoughts & actions (child/young person can use resources on the Mental Health Foundation website to think about positive actions they could take to cope with loneliness and improve their mental health).

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