One of the most common definitions of loneliness is “a negative psychological condition caused by lack of qualitative interpersonal relationships” (De Jong Gierveld & Van Tilburg, 2006, quoted by Bogre et all.). Loneliness is a subjective experience which is caused by the incompatibility between the desired and the achieved level of socialization. The deficit of social interactions and social isolation are strongly connected to loneliness. Social isolation can be defined in many ways, such as the maintenance of a tight social circle, the rare communication between us and parts of the group or living lonely.
Youths with mental health problems are keen on isolation because of the feeling of non-belonging and the inability to fit in society which can be a serious risk of desocialization. Often, they are exposed to discrimination, stigma, rejection, insults and taunts. In Bulgaria, the “mentally ill” diagnosis is often a judgement or a label. Most people live by stereotypes that form their beliefs about people with mental illnesses. They are many negative thoughts about people with mental health issues out there. The most common among them are: People with mental health problems are dangerous; They are aggressive; They are unpredictable and hard to control; They can’t be cured; The medication and therapy are useless and even harmful; They can’t be full-fledged and they can’t live outside the mental hospitals; They are dependent on their families and relatives and many more myths and prejudices. People with mental health issues consume negative beliefs and start to isolate themselves.
Although the progress in the public attitude after the start of anti-stigma campaigns, discrimination against youths with mental health issues is still popular. These people can feel helpless and excluded from society, as a result of the stigma and the discrimination they are exposed to. A Norwegian study of 181 individuals with mental health issues shows that 80% of them suffer from loneliness. Loneliness and social isolation can lead to unfavourable consequences for health. Many studies show that loneliness is connected to high blood pressure, bad cognitive skills and a weak immune system. Researchers found that loneliness often worsens the quality of life and the already existing symptoms of mental health, which can prevent recovery. Other studies confirm that loneliness and social isolation can worsen physical and mental health and at the same time increase the risk of dementia. Vice versa, the positive social impact is proven to improve personal functioning and dealing with mental health problems, which increases the quality of life.
Campaigns and actions are needed in order to fight the stigmatization and integrate youths with mental health issues in society. It’s necessary to change the social beliefs on mental health illnesses. That means society has to learn how to live with mental health illnesses and how to deal with them.