Social contact and relationships are basic human needs, but what if you have literally no one to talk to in a moment of crisis or time of need?
If you’re struggling with feelings of despair or loneliness and have no support around you, consider calling a helpline. Helpline staff will not judge you for reaching out. Loneliness is a widespread public health problem, and they often receive calls from people who have no support from family or friends.
According to a survey by Cigna, over 40% of Americans feel isolated, and over a quarter (27%) feel no one understands them.
You don’t have to be suicidal to use these services. They are for anyone who needs to talk. There’s no need to give your real name, and whatever you say will remain confidential.
Most helplines are free. Starting a conversation can feel awkward, so consider making a note of what you want to say before you call.
Helplines that you can call if you feel lonely
If you’re in the US, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or the Samaritans. Befrienders Worldwide has a list of helplines in other countries. If you are too anxious to talk on the phone, reach out to message-based helplines such as the Crisis Text Line. They offer free 24/7 support in the US, Canada, UK, and Ireland.
These services are staffed by volunteers or workers who have received training in listening skills. These volunteers are not professional therapists. However, they can help you cope in a crisis when there is no one else to listen. They can also point you towards resources that offer support with specific problems, including mental health problems.
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If you’d rather talk to someone on the internet than via telephone or text, try an online service that connects you with peer listeners.
One of the most popular is 7 Cups, which provides free emotional support from trained volunteers. The site also has live chat rooms where you can connect with other people who feel lonely, plus useful resources on mental health. Research shows that people find this kind of online listening service to be as helpful as psychotherapy.
Other peer listening apps include TalkLife, which is designed to connect people who need support with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and self-harm. You can set up a profile and share your thoughts or remain totally anonymous. It’s a safe space with a strict moderation policy, and you can filter other users’ posts by topic.
Disboard, Reddit, and other online communities have forums and discord groups for people struggling with loneliness or social anxiety. You can give and receive anonymous support and exchange tips on how to improve your social skills in the offline world. If you become a regular participant, you may be able to form meaningful friendships with other users.
You could also join online communities based around your hobbies, favorite media, or current affairs. Taking part in a lively conversation or debate can give you a sense of connection and can form the basis for healthy friendships based on shared interests and experiences.
Be mindful that whilst the internet can be an opportunity to make friends, it isn’t a substitute for offline social interaction. If you withdraw to the internet in an attempt to avoid rejection or social anxiety, you may feel more lonely. It’s best to use the internet to supplement, not replace, your offline social life.
You also need to be careful when using social media. It can be a good way to connect or reconnect with friends, but comparing yourself to others can lower your self-esteem. If scrolling through feeds and posts makes you feel worse about yourself, it’s time to log off.
Therapy isn’t only for people with mental health problems; it’s a useful tool for anyone who wants to improve their relationships and general quality of life.
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A therapist will give you an opportunity to feel heard and understood. They will also give you tools to improve your social skills, grow a support network, and cope with feelings of loneliness. Therapy can help you identify patterns in your behavior or relationships that could be stunting your social life.
If you have a good relationship with your doctor, ask them for a recommendation or referral. Alternatively, consult a reliable online directory like GoodTherapy. The relationship between a client and therapist has a significant effect on therapy outcome, so if you don’t feel comfortable with the first therapist you see, try someone else.
Online therapy is increasingly popular. There are lots of service providers that can connect you with a therapist within a few hours, such as BetterHelp and Talkspace. Online therapy tends to be cheaper than face-to-face treatment. It’s also more accessible because you can message or talk to your therapist anywhere via a mobile device. However, some people feel they develop a stronger rapport when they can see a therapist in person.
If you have an employee assistance program at work, you may be eligible for some free sessions. If you are in college, visit your student health center and ask if they offer counseling. Some college counseling services are run by student therapists who work under close supervision.
There are lots of charities and organizations that rely on volunteers. Look for roles that put you in direct contact with people, such as distributing food at food banks or helping out at a homeless shelter. Volunteering can help you feel connected to your community and make friends. If you can’t be a face-to-face volunteer, offer your time to an online or telephone befriending service. VolunteerMatch and United Way are great places to start looking for all kinds of volunteering opportunities.
Many organizations offer free training, which will give you transferable skills you can use to make friends and talk to people in everyday life beyond volunteer settings. Volunteering is a great way to meet new people if you have social anxiety because it’s based on shared experiences. Even if you have nothing in common with your fellow volunteers, you can always bring the conversation back to your voluntary work. Studies show that volunteering is an effective way to grow your social networks and make friends.
If you are struggling with a personal problem or mental health issue, join an in-person support group
Going to a group for people united by common experiences is a quick way to find support in a structured environment. Try to find a well-established group that meets on a regular basis rather than one-off events, because if you see the same people every week or month, you’re more likely to form friendships. Ask your doctor, nearest community center, or mental health clinic for recommendations.
Group leaders know that some people attending their group struggle with social anxiety or feel intimidated when meeting new people. You can call or email a leader to let them know you are attending for the first time. Tell them you feel anxious, and ask whether it would be possible to meet with them quickly at the start of the session.
If you’d like to attend an in-person group but can’t travel, try attending a live online meeting instead. They can be a good middle ground between online and face-to-face gatherings.
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Support Groups Central lists dozens of free web meetings conducted via Zoom or similar technology. There are groups scheduled for every day of the week.
All groups are run by trained volunteers who have relevant personal experience. Most of the groups are sponsored by nonprofit organizations, but some require a small fee. You can give an anonymous name and turn off your video or audio whenever you like.
For more underlying reasons for not having friends, read our main article I have no friends.
Massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) like Elder Scrolls Online, Guild Wars 2, and World of Warcraft (WoW) encourage you to work with other players to meet in-game objectives while socializing via text or voice chat. Research shows that WoW can provide opportunities for friendship and meaningful interaction. Gaming with others can also reduce loneliness.
If you don’t like MMOs, try an online game that encourages multiplayer collaboration, such as Minecraft or Stardew Valley. These games have vibrant online communities full of people who are looking to make friends with fellow players.
Just as you need to take care when using social media or taking part in other online communities, it’s important to keep your gaming within reasonable limits.
Gaming can be a healthy hobby, but it can become a compulsion or form of escapism for some people. If you are sacrificing opportunities to socialize offline in favor of gaming or failing to meet your everyday responsibilities, it’s time to cut back.
If you’re a member of a religion or identify as a spiritual person, you can look for support and friendship at your local place of worship. Along with regular services, they often host events and meetups, which can be good opportunities to meet new people who share your beliefs.
Churches, temples, mosques, and synagogues often pride themselves on bringing communities together. Some hold lunches and other casual events for anyone who would like to attend. Although norms vary by religion and region, most religious leaders will listen to anyone in need, regardless of their faith. They are accustomed to supporting people through life’s challenges, such as bereavement, economic uncertainty, serious illness, and divorce.
Hairstylists, barbers, and others who offer personal services have a lot of practice in talking to their clients and putting them at ease. They aren’t trained therapists but are often good listeners who are happy to hear about your day.
Getting a haircut or treatment is an opportunity to enjoy some casual conversation and practice making small talk. Spending time in a busy salon can make you feel part of the world around you, which can be healing if you are feeling alone. Taking care of your appearance can also improve your confidence, which may make you feel more comfortable talking to new people.
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