Looking at the world through a frosted window: experiences of loneliness among persons with mental ill-health

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Abstract

Accessible summary

  • Experiences of loneliness among people with mental ill-health can be metaphorically described as looking at the world through a frosted window.
  • The experiences are multifaceted and developing as well as emotionally and socially excluding.
  • People suffering from mental ill-health and loneliness carry a twofolded stigma. They feel socially undesirable, and the social perceptions of lonely people are generally unfavourable.

Abstract

Mental ill-health is reported to be of major concern in public health. Persons suffering from mental ill-health are a vulnerable group, and loneliness influences the perception of physical, social, and emotional well-being. However, there are few studies exploring lived experiences of loneliness among people with mental ill-health. This qualitative study aimed to illuminate experiences of loneliness among people with mental ill-health. Five individual, informal conversational interviews were performed and subjected to qualitative content analysis. The main findings showed that experiences of loneliness could be metaphorically described as looking at the world through a frosted window. The experiences of loneliness were multifaceted and altering as well as emotionally and socially excluding. The findings are discussed in relation to Tillich dimensions of loneliness: loneliness as a painful dimension of being alone, and solitude as the enriching dimension of being alone. People suffering from mental ill-health carry a twofolded stigma. They feel socially undesirable because of their mental ill-health, and the social perceptions of lonely people are generally unfavourable. We believe that mental health nurses can support the developing and creative dimension of loneliness through a confirming approach, where people with mental ill-health feel seen, heard, and respected as human beings.

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