When is Mental Health Awareness Week 2022 and what’s this year’s theme?

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The lasting impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on people’s mental health is at the forefront of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week.

While the remainder of pandemic-era restrictions were lifted in England in February, almost two years of social distancing and isolation from friends and family has highlighted how loneliness affects people’s wellbeing.

By definition, loneliness is an emotion which occurs because of a “perceived sense of disconnection from others”.

In 2016 to 2017, one in 20 (5 per cent) adults said they felt lonely “often or always”, according to the Office for National Statistics. This figure rose to 7.2 per cent in February 2021 following the first 11 months of the pandemic.

In July 2021, a report by the Campaign to End Loneliness estimated that one million more people became chronically lonely during the pandemic.

This Mental Health Awareness Week, which is taking place from Monday 9 May to Sunday 15 May, charities are encouraging people to build “meaningful connections” with friends, family, colleagues and within their communities.

Here’s everything you need to know about the annual event.

Who created it?

Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK was conceived by the Mental Health Foundation, an organisation founded in 1949.

The charity states that it takes “a public mental health approach to prevention, finding solutions to individuals, those at risk and for society, in order to improve everyone’s mental wellbeing”.

The first Mental Health Awareness Week took place in 2001, and has since become one of the most significant mental health awareness observances in the world.

In the US, Mental Health Awareness Week is observed in October, coinciding with World Mental Health Day on 10 October.

What is this year’s theme?

This year, the theme for Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK is loneliness.

The Mental Health Foundation chose this theme to raise awareness of how long-lasting or severe loneliness can affect both physical and mental health. In turn, this has implications not just for individuals but also society at large.

People who are often or always lonely have a higher risk of developing certain mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression, and this kind of loneliness is also associated with increased thoughts of suicide.

Loneliness can also have a detrimental impact on physical health as it negatively affects sleep quality and increases cortisol levels (our body’s main stress hormone).

16 male celebrities who have spoken about mental health

Channel 4 in 2017 that by opening up about his depression he hoped to help others. "I think for them to see I went through it would help," the BRIT-award-winning musician said. "For a long time I used to think that soldiers don’t go through that. You know? Like, strong people in life, the bravest, the most courageous people, they don’t go through that, they just get on with it...and that’s not the case." (Rex Features)" />

Twilight star Robert Pattinson told The Telegraph he struggled with depression for a period of time. “'I had a bit of a struggle at first because my life really contracted and I couldn't do a lot of the stuff I used to be able to do." He advised aspiring Hollywood actors to "take care" of your mental health. "If you get as famous as quickly as I did, your personal growth stops suddenly.” (Rex Features)" />

Today in 2018: "After years and years and years of just shoving every negative, bad feeling down to the point where I mean, I just didn't even feel it anymore...and for me, that sent me down a spiral staircase real quick and like I said, I found myself in a spot where I didn't want to be alive anymore." (Rex Features)" />

The Sunday Times Style magazine about suffering with an eating disorder and anxiety. "We’re all human. People are often afraid to admit difficulties, but I don’t believe that there should be a struggle with anything that’s the truth," said the former One Direction singer. "If you were a guy, you used to have to be really masculine, but now expressing emotion is accepted and respected.’ (Rex Features)" />

iNews. Although he is pleased to "start conversations" Green warns how becoming a mental health spokesperson can be high pressure. “It’s difficult because sometimes you’re having a great day, then someone comes up and tells you something absolutely horrific; I’m not a psychologist and it’s really hard." (Rex Features)" />

Childish Gambino told Vice in 2013 he'd been through periods of depression following the end of his tour. "I was just super depressed. I mean, I tried to kill myself. I was really fucked up after that [tour], because I had this girl that I thought I was going to marry and we broke up. I didn’t feel like I knew what I was doing. I wasn’t living up to my standard, I was living up to other people’s standards, and I just said ‘I don’t see the point'.” (Rex Features)" />

People magazine that talking about his mental health problems was the "scariest" thing he's ever done. "I still struggle with it but just remember every day that everyone deals with some level of anxiety or pressure; we're all in it together." He told The Sun in 2018: "All pain is temporary, and the thing is with anxiety, and why it's such a hard thing for people who don't have it to understand." (Rex Features)" />

iNews that he had struggled with depression throughout his life. “At this point, I don’t have depression. I had that for years, but now, when the rain comes, it rains, but it doesn’t stay. It doesn’t stay long enough to immerse me and drown me anymore.” (Rex Features)" />

Fall Out Boy frontman Pete Wentz has spoken openly about his bipolar disorder diagnosis and other mental health problems. He said that it took him to reach breaking point before asking for help. "My best piece of advice, more than anything, is that there's other people out there that feel [suicidal], or are feeling that right at that time," he said. "Maybe your favorite actor, or a guy in a band, or whoever, there are people who feel that exact same thing and have made it through that. I would say more than anything, you're not alone in it." (Rex Features)" />

Mad Men star Jon Hamm told The Guardian in 2010. "I did do therapy and antidepressants for a brief period, which helped me." Hamm said medication helped change his "brain chemistry" enough so he could get out of bed. "I don't want to sleep until four in the afternoon. I want to get up and go do my shit and go to work," he says. (Rex Features)" />

“Evidence shows that loneliness leads to greater pressure on public services through, for instance, increased GP visits, longer hospital stays, increased likelihood of entering residential care and the costs of associated conditions such as depression and diabete,” the Mental Health Foundation said.

The charity is also aiming to highlight how the loneliness experienced during the pandemic “will continue to have implications for mental health, even now restrictions are eased”.

“The evidence suggests that the pandemic heightened disadvantages among those groups that were already at greater risk of loneliness anyway and increased the risk of loneliness among some new groups,” it said.

How can you get involved?

According to the Mental Health Foundation website, stories are the best way to get involved, with the organisation encouraging people to share their experiences of loneliness on social media through the hashtag #I’veBeenThere.

“Loneliness is affecting more and more of us in the UK and has had a huge impact on our physical and mental health during the pandemic,” Mark Rowland, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation, said.

“That is why we have chosen it as our theme for Mental Health Awareness Week 2022. Our connection to other people and our community is fundamental to protecting our mental health so we much find better ways of tackling the epidemic of loneliness. We can all play a part in this.”

The foundation has also created infographics to be shared on social media, which are available for free on its website here.

Separately, the campaign is calling on the government to provide additional funding to local councils so that they may create community resources to tackle loneliness.

If you are in need of mental health support, you can contact charity Mind by calling the helpline on 0300 123 3393, emailing info@mind.org.uk or texting 86463. The helpline is open Monday to Friday (except bank holidays), 9am to 6pm.