knowledge to get close to others, says
Deborah Kieran, a therapist with the
Calgary Counselling Centre.
“If you have no idea how to test the
waters with another person, or deal with
rejection, then it can be a challenge,”
Kieran says. One way to reduce risk is
to find activities that focus on a shared
interest. Social clubs and networks, both
online and actual, can be a good way to
break the ice, she says.
“Therapists can help problem-solve
and come up with a stepped approach
in getting relationship needs met.
Sometimes it’s a matter of equipping
people with the right skills and
knowledge,” Kieran says.
Assertiveness training can help. Other
times, people’s negative thoughts about
themselves and their situation may
need to be challenged with cognitive
behavioural therapy, she says.
Abba-Aji suggests young people
and teens who are lonely can start by
reaching out to people they know, such
as family members, neighbours and
“You don’t have to go rushing in and
start talking right away. It’s OK just to sit
and listen, too,” he says. Young people
in particular may feel pressure to take
drugs, alcohol or engage in other risky
behaviours just to fit in. (See Youthful on
page 18.) It’s best to start slowly when
getting to know people better, he says.
Seniors face different challenges. Many
have lost spouses and close friends. They
might also have physical limitations that
make it hard for them to go out and seek
“Continuing as much as possible
any routines the senior has previously
enjoyed can be beneficial, as are family
visits,” Abba-Aji says.
When loneliness reaches into the
workplace, it can lead to inefficiencies
and reduce productivity.
Employers can help reduce workplace
loneliness by designing activities and
spaces that bring people together.
People who are lonely need help to
“We in the community have a
responsibility to identify people who are
at risk,” Abba-Aji says. Teachers who
notice students eating their lunches alone
can step in to help reduce the isolation.
Among adults, if someone suddenly
changes their behaviour and becomes
reclusive, it may signal an emerging
mental illness that is treatable (see
Course helps spot seniors at risk, page
9). People might also turn to drugs,
alcohol, binge eating or gambling in an
effort to compensate for their feelings of
loneliness, he says.
“When we see this, it’s not something
that is normal. Collectively we can
actually reach out and help.”|a
Employers can reduce
workplace loneliness by
designing spaces that
bring people together
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