The theme of the 2022 Mental Health Awareness Week during mid-May was loneliness. This condition, experienced by many of us throughout our lifetimes is seldom discussed due to the feelings of shame and stigma attached to the word ‘lonely’. And in any case, how can a person feel lonely in the age of Facebook and other social media platforms, where connection to others is a mere click away? The truth is, although a widely publicised 2018 study showed that moderate social media use (30 minutes a day, three times per week) had a positive effect on mental well-being, almost a quarter of adults in the UK report feeling occasionally lonely.
Being single in later life as well as suffering from mental health problems such as depression, are factors that can increase a person’s chances of experiencing loneliness. And with the increase in divorce among people over 60 years, the mental health implications of marital separation in adults must be acknowledged.
What are the mental health risks of divorce for adults?
When compared with the numerous studies examining the impact of divorce on children, there is little research available on how divorce affects those who are experiencing the process. One recent paper found that in cases of divorce where the parties were over 50 years:
“older adults’ depressive symptoms (GHQ) increase in the years before and upon union dissolution. After separation, depressive symptoms decrease and return to approximately previous baseline levels. Our analyses on heterogeneity in the effects of gray divorce show that post-divorce adjustment is faster for childless adults than for parents. We find no evidence that adjustment after gray divorce is slower for women than for men, or for persons who already experienced a prior union dissolution than for those who separate for the first time.”
The circumstances surrounding the divorce can greatly increase the chances of negative mental health implications. Long, drawn-out, contentious proceedings, divorcing a narcissist, disputes over finances, jurisdiction, and child arrangements – all these factors can lead to stress, anxiety, and depression. Matters can be complicated further in situations where one spouse’s pre-existing mental health condition affects divorce proceedings.
How can I look after my mental health during a divorce?
The following tips can help you stay positive and focused throughout the divorce process:
- Prioritise getting enough sleep, exercise, and healthy food. When going through a relationship breakup it is easy to overindulge in wine, ice cream, and Netflix as a way of coping. And a good old-fashioned pity party once in a while can be extremely therapeutic as long as 90% of the time you are taking care of yourself physically.
- Don’t cut yourself off from family and friends. Although it is common to feel others are judging you for getting divorced, in all likelihood your loved ones are worried about you and want to help. Let them take your children for an afternoon so you can have some time to yourself. And remember, you do not have to pretend everything is fine if you feel down – a problem shared is a problem halved as the old saying goes. This point is especially salient for men, who tend to rely on their spouse for emotional support and find themselves adrift when they are no longer available to talk to and share life with.
- Consider professional help. Divorce can ignite a raft of negative memories and emotions that need to be worked through so you can come out the other side a stronger person. A counsellor or psychologist can provide vital support and guidance before, during, and after your divorce.
Few people are prepared for the emotional distress divorce can cause. One factor that can greatly alleviate stress and worry is choosing the right divorce solicitor. Make sure you talk to a few to find one who you feel you can trust and who has an approach that suits you. A good family law solicitor will not add to your anxiety by leaving you wondering how your case is progressing, instead, you will be kept constantly informed. They will also spot signs of distress and gently refer you to a professional counsellor if they feel you need extra support. One way to choose a high-quality divorce solicitor is to look for one who is a Resolution member. They are required to follow a Code of Practice and are trained to resolve disputes in a non-confrontational manner.
If you are feeling things are becoming too much, please remember that you are not alone. You can call the Samaritans at any time of the day or night, 365 days of the year on 116 123.
Edwards Family Law is a niche London-based firm specialising in complex family law cases following the breakdown of a relationship. To find out more about divorce and financial settlements, please phone +44 (0)20 3983 1818 or email email@example.com. All enquiries are treated in the strictest confidence.