Mental Health Awareness Week - May 9th to 15th 2022

This time last year, we were still under strict lockdown rules imposed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We were unable to meet friends and family indoors. We could only socialise outdoors in groups of six. And children had only been back at school for a few short months.

A lot has changed in a year. While our lives are looking a little more like they used to, we’re not out of the woods just yet.

The pandemic, and the lockdowns it prompted, have had a huge impact on the population’s mental health.

Mental Health Awareness Week will be held from 9th to 15th May 2022 and there’s really never been a better time to examine and acknowledge the lingering mental health effects of the pandemic.

For organisations and employers, this means understanding how employees are feeling — and for the rest of us, it means finding ways to look after each other, and ourselves.

 Loneliness and mental health

Each year, Mental Health Awareness Week focuses on a particular theme or issue.

In 2022, the theme is loneliness.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, loneliness is:

The feeling we experience when there is a mismatch between the social connections we have and those that we need or want.

All of us experience loneliness from time to time, but long-term or chronic loneliness can have serious effects on our mental health.

Rates of loneliness

Loneliness is affecting more and more people in the UK. Rates skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, according to Mental Health Foundation research, rates of reported loneliness were three times higher than they were pre-pandemic.  

We missed interactions (both meaningful and insignificant) with family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. These connections are crucial to good mental health.

How does loneliness impact mental health?

Long term loneliness has been linked to an increased risk of various mental health problems. These include depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, poor sleep and increased stress.

This can then create a vicious cycle.

When you are experiencing poor mental health, it becomes more difficult to socialise and make connections. This can leave people feeling even more lonely.

Why might people feel lonely at work?

Healthcare workers have been placed under incredible pressure throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Many workers are feeling burnt out, undervalued and overworked.
They may have continued to work and see colleagues throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but that doesn’t mean they have escaped the effects of loneliness.
Healthcare staff may feel lonely because:

  • They don’t have a supportive workplace team to share their stresses and concerns with
  • Family and friends don’t really understand what they’ve been going through
  • There have been fewer opportunities to socialise informally with colleagues
  • They’ve avoided contact with vulnerable friends and family for fear of passing on a COVID-19 infection
  • They work night shifts, which makes daytime socialising more difficult

3 ways to look after your mental health and the health of those around you


COVID-19 has put the mental health of healthcare workers under huge strain. As well as feelings of loneliness, many workers are experiencing extreme depression, stress, anxiety and even PTSD.  

As an organisation, it’s important to recognise the toll that the pandemic has had upon employee mental health and do your best to improve wellbeing.

The best approaches include a mixture of preventative action and targeted intervention. Here are a few ideas.

1. Create an open conversation around mental health

Unfortunately, there’s still a lot of stigma around mental health problems.

People may not want to admit that they’re struggling with their mental health because they fear it will affect their career or their workplace relationships, or that their problems will become common knowledge.

But we know that struggling in silence makes things worse.

As an employer, it’s important to openly discuss the mental health pressures of the healthcare profession and strategies for coping with it. You might like to:
  • Highlight the fact that physical and mental health are equally as important
  • Appoint a mental health champion within each department
  • Make it clear where and how employees can seek mental health support
  • Assure staff of confidentiality around mental health issues
  • Offer regular opportunities for staff to share how they’re feeling, either within their team or on a one-to-one basis with managers.
2. Take time and space to recharge

Staff shortages are a real problem right now. But, to avoid burnout and its ill effects, employers have to allow their staff the downtime they need to recharge.

Time away from work gives minds and bodies a rest. It also gives everyone much-needed time to connect with friends and family.

As well as being fair and realistic when designing working schedules, respect your employees’ time away from work. That might mean creating clear boundaries, where employees are not expected to answer emails or do paperwork when they are away from the workplace.

3. Access and signpost self-care resources

Self-care strategies can help to reduce the symptoms of many mental health problems. Organisations should aim to support employees in the following self-care techniques.


Regular physical exercise can help to improve mental health. Why not start a colleague running club, organise a weekly yoga class or point employees in the direction of local gym facilities?

Healthy eating

Healthy eating is good for mental health too. You might like to promote a culture of healthy eating by facilitating recipe swaps or by treating your team to a weekly fruit basket.  


Everybody needs to relax and recharge. If employees don’t find it easy to switch off from work, mindfulness techniques can help.

Point your team in the direction of mindfulness resources, so they can develop the skills they need to de-stress — even in the midst of a busy day.


As we learned earlier in this article, loneliness has a negative impact on our mental health. We need regular human connections to stay mentally healthy.

Don’t take it for granted that employees are getting this connection away from the workplace.

Encourage informal staff get-togethers at break times and after work to promote the interaction we all need so much.

Here at Medicareplus, we’re focused on supporting our employees and our healthcare customers so that they can support their patients. Check out our blog to read more of our latest posts.