Over the last one week or so, our content has focused on loneliness. We chose to end the mental health month on that note. It is quite timely given the impact of the pandemic has aggravated loneliness globally. When we bring focus to Kenya and loneliness, the reality is more dreadful than statistics may ever capture.
Loneliness is not just being alone. It’s also feeling unwanted, isolated and disconnected from other people. Africa used to be community oriented, but things started changing when the different countries were colonized. Suddenly, the people could not trust each other which led to a slow but sure crumble in our societal structure. As the years went by, rural to urban migration became a reality which slowly made up the current individualistic culture.
Moving forward to the pandemic times. More adults became aware that their marriages were dysfunctional, they lived well above their means, and they were actually very lonely. No wonder divorce and separation rates skyrocketed. Which of course affected the children as well.
The elders cries were amplified because most of them were abandoned by their children, survived their partners and were strategically isolated from the larger community.
The young adults became aware of the socioeconomic factors preventing them from feeling like they belong. Joblessness is a huge problem here in Kenya. This makes it difficult to socialize and maintain any bonds since youths are busy looking for money to pay bills.
What are some of the solutions to loneliness?
1. Connecting in real life and virtually. Social media is a great tool for connecting. However, we can enhance it by meeting our virtual friends in real life.
2. Spending more time outdoors. This could be for fun reasons such as outdoor cooking, going for a nature walk, hiking and camping in the company of other people.
3. Participating in communal activities. Nairobi has green spaces such as the Arboretum and Karura forest. Lots of people go for walks, bike riding and physical gaming.
4. Talk to strangers of course safety first and always. However, talking to strangers is one of the ways to make friends.
5. Joining specialized groups. These are kinds of unstructured support groups. It helps each person to build up their confidence and social support.
Loneliness can worsen our mental health. It affects how the brain functions. Which could further aggravate an existing mental health challenge. While many popular people make it seem like we can “self care” our way out of loneliness, I am here to remind you about community care. That is why all our solutions are anchored on it.