Long-term isolation damages health and wellbeing. Loneliness has taken its toll during lockdown. This blog looks at help available in Oxford and shows how volunteering is rewarding and sociable too.
We know that loneliness can be triggered by different things, including stress, and poor physical and mental health. Significant life changes also spark loneliness, from moving home, stopping work or losing a loved one.
Loneliness doesn’t discriminate. It can effect anyone of any age, ethnicity, background or gender. The Covid-19 pandemic has made more of us feel lonely than ever. And people who were already isolated and lonely may have become even more vulnerable and unhappy.
Others have formally volunteered their time to help people and learn from others too. These actions have demonstrated what a truly inclusive and compassionate city Oxford is. And will continue to be.
What to do if you are lonely
The NHS every mind matters service stresses the importance of reminding yourself that feelings of loneliness are not your fault. No one should blame themselves if they are struggling now or at any other time.
It gives, and provides resources on, 7 tips that might help ease your sense of isolation.
- Explore ways to spend time together
- Be more social and check in regularly
- Share your feelings – but do not compare
- Do more things you enjoy
- Stay busy by learning something new
- Volunteer to help others
- Join an online community
Different things work for different people, so try to find what suits you, and seek further support if you feel you need it.
Support and companionship in Oxford
If you live in Oxford and are lonely, you can find companionship and friendship through Phone Links.
Operated by Oxford Hub, as part of its Oxford Together programme, Phone Links supports isolated people by linking them up with someone who can help ease loneliness through regular phone calls. The aim of the project is to create lasting, mutual friendships between local people.
If you, or anyone you know, would benefit from someone to speak to regularly on the phone, and a listening ear, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Becoming a caller with Phone Links
Phone Links is always looking for new callers and welcomes enquiries from people who want to get involved. New volunteers are matched with two people to start with for once or twice-weekly calls.
There is flexibility depending on your availability, and the availability of the person you’ve been matched with. You will be placed in a “pod”, a small group of callers who come together for ongoing support. Callers then commit for a minimum of three months - and most pairs go on to call each other beyond this.
Volunteering matters to volunteers
As well as helping others, volunteering can provide a healthy boost to your self-confidence, self-esteem, and life satisfaction.
You are doing good for others and the community, which provides a natural sense of accomplishment. Your role as a volunteer can also give you a sense of pride and identity.
“At the start of Lockdown one, in March 2020, I saw an advert asking for volunteers to call vulnerable and lonely people. Everything else I do seemed to have been cancelled due to the pandemic and I wanted to do something useful and rewarding.
“Initially, I phoned two people regularly but after the first lockdown ended, one of them felt able to cope without the calls, which was great to hear.
“I have been making regular calls to the other person for over year now and I feel we have become good friends. We have such good chats and are going to meet up soon.
“He continually says I have made such a difference to his life in the last year - and that is really great to feel I have helped someone.
“I also became a Pod Leader for the Hub. This is a small group of fellow-volunteers who are supportive colleagues and have become good friends.
“It is nice to feel you can make a difference to someone/some people's lives and volunteering has broadened my experience and widened my own network too.”
Judith, a volunteer caller with Phone Links