Young men and loneliness

Everyone can feel lonely sometimes, but what if it’s really starting to get to you? It can be tough for a man to open up about feeling lonely, because in our society we’re taught that men are just meant to ‘get on with it’. But this isn't helpful or true: men deserve to feel connected and supported, just like anyone else.

Recent ReachOut research found that 40 per cent of males reported feeling lonely, so you’re far from being alone in feeling this way. Chances are that many people you know feel the same. Keep reading to learn more about how to cope with loneliness and where to go for support.

Why do I feel lonely?

While it’s often the case that you can feel lonely when you’re physically alone or isolated, sometimes it can come up even if you’ve got friends and family around you. On the other hand, some people may not have much contact with others but not feel lonely. It’s more about feeling connected to other people than about their physical presence.

While there are lots of reasons you might be feeling lonely, here are some common ones:

  • You feel disconnected from your friends.

  • You’re single and want to be in a relationship.

  • You’re going through a break-up.

  • You feel like you can’t express your emotions.

  • You’re moving away from home.

  • You feel like you don’t have meaningful friendships where you can share what you’re going through.

  • You feel invisible or misunderstood.

  • You’re dealing with illness or an injury.

  • You’re a carer for a parent or sibling.

Recognising why you’re feeling lonely can be really helpful – by looking at the cause, you can see how to manage the situation and feel less lonely. If you’re lonely because of something that’s out of your control, though, you may have to develop some healthy coping strategies so you can look after yourself until things change.

How do other young guys cope with loneliness?

Coping strategies or methods are things you do to help you tolerate and deal with stressful situations in life. It’s natural to want to find something else to focus on, and to distract yourself from painful emotions or situations. Some of these methods are good for you, like going surfing or playing music, and sometimes they can be unhealthy or even harmful.

Because young men are often taught to keep their emotions inside, coping with loneliness can feel really overwhelming. This can result in turning to more harmful coping strategies like:

Relying on these methods to cope with loneliness is very common and is nothing to be ashamed of. However, while they may help you to shift your attention in the moment, they can be harmful to your health in the long run and could negatively impact your relationships and lifestyle.

A mental health professional can work with you to develop some new coping methods that will help you feel happier and healthier overall.

Hear from some young guys about the strategies they use to cope when they feel lonely:

Read the transcript.

How can I stop feeling lonely?

The good news is, there are lots of healthy coping methods for loneliness, and plenty of things you can do to feel less lonely.

  • Acknowledge that feeling lonely is really common. Many people feel lonely, so it’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. Be proud of yourself for recognising that what you’re feeling is loneliness and for seeking new ways to manage that feeling!

  • Find your trusted person or people. This might be a friend, family member or mental health professional. Check out these tips on how to find your trusted person.

  • Open up about your emotions. This can feel really scary if it isn’t something you usually do, but being honest and open about how you’re feeling may reduce your sense of loneliness almost immediately. Sharing your feelings with someone you trust can make the emotions you’re carrying feel lighter. Learn more in this step-by-step guide to talking to someone you trust.

  • Find new supportive mates. Try different activities that might help you connect with new friends. Find people with similar interests through Meetup and the Ending Loneliness Directory.

  • Work on your relationships. Reach out to friends and see if they want to catch up. If you feel comfortable, use that time to tell them how you’ve been feeling. You might be surprised at their response.

  • Do things you enjoy. Think about the fun and healthy activities you enjoy and spend more time doing them. For example, if you enjoy going to the gym or playing sports, go do that. If you’re more into reading, borrow a book from the library or join a book club.

  • Get online. Check out the ReachOut Online Community, where you can connect with other young people and share your story.

  • Say yes! If any social invitations come your way, say yes to them. You never know who you’ll meet or the connections you’ll strengthen along the way.

Where can I go for more support?

For more support, try chatting to a mental health professional. If you’re keen to speak with a psychologist, the first step is usually to see a GP and ask for a mental health care plan, which will cover some of the cost of your appointments.

If you need more immediate support, try calling or chatting online with one of these services:

  • MensLine – 1300 78 9978. A free telephone and online counselling service for Australian men.

  • Kids Helpline – 1800 55 1800. A free telephone and online counselling service for young adults aged up to 25. You could also try their My Circle service, which is a free, private and confidential social platform that allows you to chat with other young people who are going through similar things.

  • Lifeline – 13 11 14. A free telephone, online counselling and texting support service, available 24/7.

  • 13Yarn – 13 92 76. A free telephone counselling service for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, available 24/7.

Remember that loneliness is a normal emotion, and that everyone feels lonely from time to time. By developing healthy coping methods, asking for support from your trusted person, or chatting with the services listed above, you’ll be helping yourself to feel more connected and less alone.

What can I do now?

  • Hop on the ReachOut Online Community to connect with other people who might be feeling lonely.

  • Make a list of all your coping strategies and brainstorm some new ones to add to the list.

  • Hear from other young people about why talking to others helps you feel better.