The counseling and psychology professions continue to gain interest and defy stigmas as they help shape personal and professional development. As a pioneer in the behavioral health sector, it is evident that mental health awareness is working and shedding a continuous light on the impact of seeking help and support from professional clinicians across the globe.1
As we know, the pandemic was a challenging time. Many lives were tested, the future was questioned, and meeting our basic needs became our everyday narrative. As we all prepared ourselves in the best way possible, little did we know what many of us would be faced with.
Loneliness was one of the many challenges that individuals in various communities experienced. At the same time, this provided an opportunity for mental health professionals to respond to the challenge creatively.
In This Article:
- Post-Pandemic Loneliness
- How To Combat Loneliness
- How Mental Health Advocacy Can Help
- What Does a Mental Health Advocate Do?
- Earn Your Psychology, Counseling or Social Work Degree at GCU
The pandemic posed many different challenges of uncertainty and isolation. Many found themselves on the outskirts of life as well as their daily living. Routines would be shattered, habits broken and going outdoors became uncomfortable. It was a time that tested us all. Here are some key findings from the State of Caring on how the impact of loneliness became a pivotal point in the lives of so many:2
- In a recent national survey of American adults, 36% of respondents reported serious loneliness — feeling lonely “frequently” or “almost all the time or all the time” in the four weeks prior to the survey. This included 61% of young people aged 18-25 and 51% of mothers with young children.
- 43% of young adults reported increased loneliness since the outbreak of the pandemic. About half of lonely young adults in our survey reported that no one in the past few weeks had “taken more than just a few minutes” to ask how they are doing in a way that made them feel like the person “genuinely cared.”
- Young adults suffer high rates of both loneliness and anxiety and depression. According to a recent CDC survey, 63% of this age group are suffering significant symptoms of anxiety and depression.
How To Combat Loneliness
There are many ways in which the feelings of loneliness can be addressed. Here are some strategies for dealing with loneliness:
Join a Class or Club
This is an opportunity to surround yourself with others that have the same interest and are interested in the same thing — seeking connection and having a good time. When you participate in an activity that you are interested in, you can look forward to the day, be creative and create a dialogue with others, outside of your home.
Volunteering can provide new experiences, enhance your well-being and give you a sense of purpose. It is a great way to bring meaning into your life while connecting with others. In addition to decreasing loneliness, there is the benefit of altruism and gratitude. It can be rewarding when you take the time out of your life to give your time to another.
Find Support Online
There are many people that use social media as a social outlet. Seeking a support group online can be a valuable step. Look for meetup groups that you are interested in or that you see yourself being involved in. There are also research apps that you can access to help locate supportive outlets of interest. There is a space for you. It is possible to connect with others and establish meaningful and healthy relationships. Be open to it.
Connect With Existing Relationships
Call an old friend and focus on establishing and strengthening your current relationship. You will be surprised that the friendships you are seeking may already exist. Make it a point to call a friend more often, make plans and enhance your bond. Feel free to start slow and avoid getting overwhelmed. You want to focus on nurturing your relationships — not create anxiety by doing so.
Adopt a Pet
We all know how fun having a new pet can be. There are so many benefits in having a pet. Companionship can conquer loneliness in many ways. Taking your dog for a walk or to your local dog park can be perfect opportunities to engage and connect with other pet lovers in your community.
Saying hello is a small gesture with a mighty outcome. You will be surprised that just saying hello or speaking to your neighbor can lift your spirits and help you to feel happier. Interacting in small ways can have a big impact. The next time you make a coffee run, just say hi to the barista and tell them to have a good day. In doing so, you can do the same.
When you’re feeling lonely, make sure that you are taking good care of yourself. Self-care is important and should be a priority. Eating healthy, engaging in physical activity, getting a manicure, playing a sport and having good sleeping habits can all contribute to psychological health and well-being. Make sure to put self-care into your lifestyle.
Have a Plan
Pull out your planner or your smartphone and make a plan to do something every day. Whether you take a walk or begin a home improvement project, make sure that you are doing something and that you have a plan in place. If you don’t feel up to it, it is ok to reschedule for another day when you feel better.
See a Therapist
Psychotherapy may be needed if loneliness and symptoms of depression continue. Some forms of therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, can help you to process your thoughts and manage your behavior. You can learn coping skill strategies that you can implement within your life and that will enhance healthy and functional relationships. It is a great way to receive support and tools that address feelings of loneliness and/or despair.
How Mental Health Advocacy Can Help
A mental health professional can also be a mental health advocate who provides emotional support and guidance to those who are challenged with a mental health condition.
As personal barriers evolve, it is important to have a supportive resource that will be there to guide us as we navigate through our personal challenges and presenting situations. It can be an asset to have someone present in our lives that will listen when we need an ear, be available when we need a shoulder, and have the knowledge that align us to resources that will support us and push us to that next step — a step closer to a successful outcome.
What Does a Mental Health Advocate Do?
Loneliness is just one type of distress that can hinder one’s life and personal outlook. Individuals with mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety, can benefit from mental health advocacy. A mental health advocate can provide tools and resources to a population in need of a caring heart and a trusting voice.
As mental health professional, you can help advocate for positive change and fellowship with others that share the same goals of supporting those in your community. You can become a part of the mental health community by leading and implementing practices and professional trends that can assist and promote change overtime. Lastly, you can help make a difference by planting seeds of awareness and nurturing important change while placing a light at the foot of those in need of a path and a voice.
Here are a few ways to advocate for mental health in your community:
- Share your story and be a voice for others
- Educate your community about mental health challenges
- Help change policies and legislation in the mental healthcare system
When working with mental health challenges, implementing practices and advocating for individual care can be pivotal. Support is vital to overall success.
Earn Your Psychology, Counseling or Social Work Degree at GCU
If you have the desire to engage and support others by connecting individuals to tools and relevant resources, mental health advocacy may be perfect for you. The mental health profession is a discipline that requires knowledge, training and competence. You can approach each of these skills as a student in a psychology, counseling or social work program.
Grand Canyon University (GCU) offers psychology and counseling degree programs that will equip and prepare you for the meaningful career that lies ahead. Whether you choose a degree in psychology, counseling or social work, each discipline will enhance your skills in providing support and making meaningful connections by helping others.
When you choose this career path, there is a hidden gem that awaits your personal and professional development. Becoming an advocate for mental health is a gift that has a great return. It is a reward for you and your community. It is a gift that keeps on giving. Fill out the form on this page to learn ways to advocate for mental health as a student at GCU.
1 HHS Press Office. (2023, May 3). Fact Sheet: Celebrating Mental Health Awareness Month 2023. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved on June 1, 2023.
2 Weissbourd, R., Batanova, M., Lovison, V., Torres, E. (2021, February). Loneliness in America: How the Pandemic Has Deepened an Epidemic of Loneliness and What We Can Do About It. Harvard Graduate School of Education. Retrieved April 10, 2023.
Approved by the author of the blog post on June 5, 2023.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.