knowledge to get close to others, saysDeborah Kieran, a therapist with theCalgary Counselling Centre.
“If you have no idea how to test thewaters with another person, or deal withrejection, then it can be a challenge,”Kieran says. One way to reduce risk isto find activities that focus on a sharedinterest. Social clubs and networks, bothonline and actual, can be a good way tobreak the ice, she says.
“Therapists can help problem-solveand come up with a stepped approachin getting relationship needs met.Sometimes it’s a matter of equippingpeople with the right skills andknowledge,” Kieran says.
Assertiveness training can help. Othertimes, people’s negative thoughts aboutthemselves and their situation mayneed to be challenged with cognitivebehavioural therapy, she says.
Abba-Aji suggests young peopleand teens who are lonely can start byreaching out to people they know, suchas family members, neighbours andschoolmates.
“You don’t have to go rushing in andstart talking right away. It’s OK just to sitand listen, too,” he says. Young peoplein particular may feel pressure to takedrugs, alcohol or engage in other riskybehaviours just to fit in. (See Youthful onpage 18.) It’s best to start slowly whengetting 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 possibleany routines the senior has previouslyenjoyed can be beneficial, as are familyvisits,” Abba-Aji says.
When loneliness reaches into theworkplace, it can lead to inefficienciesand reduce productivity.
Employers can help reduce workplaceloneliness by designing activities andspaces that bring people together.
People who are lonely need help tomake connections.
“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 suddenlychanges their behaviour and becomesreclusive, it may signal an emergingmental illness that is treatable (seeCourse helps spot seniors at risk, page
9). People might also turn to drugs,alcohol, binge eating or gambling in aneffort to compensate for their feelings ofloneliness, he says.
“When we see this, it’s not somethingthat is normal. Collectively we canactually reach out and help.”|a
Employers can reduce
workplace loneliness by
designing spaces that
bring people together
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