You are not alone, help is at hand

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LONELINESS, according to medical books, is a state of the mind and a feeling of being alone or in a state of solitude. People who are alone feel empty, left behind, unwanted, and often crave human contact. However, their state of mind makes it very difficult for them to form relationships with other people.

Studies show that loneliness can contribute to a disruption in mental health which leads to numerous social problems such as suicide, depression and drug abuse. Accor-ding to Dr Tam Cai Lian, senior lecturer in Counselling Psychology at the Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Monash University Malaysia, peer influence and curiosity are the top contributory factors to drug abuse in Malaysia.

At least two deaths by suicide occurred daily on average from 2019 to May 2020 according to Abdul Jalil Hassan, director of the Bukit Aman Criminal Investi-gations Department. And almost half a million Malaysians experience symptoms of depression, according to the 2019 National Health and Morbidity Survey.

It is important to understand the causes of loneliness. Studies suggest that loneliness is associated with poor social skills and introversion leading to social isolation. Loneliness, according to many experts, is not necessarily about being physically alone – you can feel alone even in a crowd. Loneli-ness is in the mind, and a person’s state of the mind is affected by inputs from his/her environment from the time he/she is born.

What can be done to address loneliness?

First, upbringing plays a very important role in instilling self-esteem and confidence in a child that can help stave off loneliness. A child must be taught to love and be loved, and value hardship to achieve happiness in life. Parents must guide their children through the different stages of their lives while letting them make decisions whenever necessary to allow the child to develop accountability and responsibility.

Most importantly, parents must live by the ideals they want children to embrace – but at the same time, not expect perfection from their children. A child must learn – literally and metaphorically – to walk, fall and get up to walk again with the helping hands of parents. A child growing up in such an environment will develop confidence and value healthy social interactions. He/she will be less prone to becoming lonely.

When the child starts going to school, the environment changes and becomes very challenging. Here, the role of teachers is vital. Besides imparting knowledge, teachers must be able to communicate with students and understand children’s behaviour.

Teachers with knowledge of child psychology will be effective in guiding students to develop good attitudes and good mental health that can prevent students from developing loneliness and negative behaviour such as bullying. To achieve this, the Education Ministry should provide the necessary training for teachers and create a conducive and safe environment in schools.

The key to preventing loneliness lies in neurochemicals such as dopamine and serotonin in the brain which control the state of the mind. Positive thinking and socialising promote the release of these good chemicals. The brain becomes more fluid to cope with changing environmental challenges.

To break the chain of loneliness, one must reach out for help and choose not to be alone. Take the steps to feel good and this will initiate the release of the good neurochemicals which can change the state of the mind. This does not necessarily require socialising activities. However, healthy social activities will stimulate the release of more good neurochemicals.

There are always good people around to offer aid to those struggling with loneliness. We can help each other by keeping an eye on people who are vulnerable to loneliness, and reaching out to them can prevent the consequences of loneliness.

The government and NGOs as well as corporate and community leaders must set up integrated programmes to reach out to and engage lonely people to help assimilate them into society. This effort may reduce the incidents of depression, suicide, drug abuse and other mental health illnesses that have financial implications.

Loneliness is a state of the mind that can be overcome and those who are in a position to help must create this opportunity. To those who feel alone, the message is: “You are not alone”.


Director, Clinical Skills Centre, Faculty of Medicine

AIMST University

Those suffering from problems can reach out to the Mental Health Psychosocial Support Service at 03-2935 9935 or 014-322 3392; Talian Kasih at 15999 or 019-261 5999 on WhatsApp; Jakim’s (Department of Islamic Development Malaysia) family, social and community care centre at 0111-959 8214 on WhatsApp; and Befrienders Kuala Lumpur at 03-7627 2929 or go to centre-in-malaysia for a full list of numbers nationwide and operating hours, or email

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