Scarlett Moffatt has opened up about her experience of loneliness during the pandemic and the "guilt" she felt for it.
The TV presenter and Samaritans ambassador, 31, who rose to fame as the nation's favourite on Goggle Box and as Queen of the Jungle on I'm a Celeb is known for speaking candidly about the impact of fame on her mental health.
“Sometimes it can feel like there is a negative stigma around admitting that you’re lonely, but it’s something that most people will have experienced at one point in their life," she said.
"There is no shame in feeling alone, and it’s okay to talk about it."
At her lowest point, she made the brave decision to contact the Samaritans, using a fake name, which then led to seeking help from her GP.
“In the world of social media, it’s not always clear to see when people are feeling sad or lonely," she added.
"I remember feeling guilt when I felt lonely – because to many people I have no reason to feel alone – but loneliness affects us all.
"The pandemic was particularly tough for a lot of people. I rang Samaritans for support and would urge anyone else struggling to do so too.
"Talking to someone who didn’t know me, or judge me, really helped when I wanted to talk about how I was feeling”.
Moffatt also spoke out last year on BBC Breakfast about her experience with trolls online. “When I came out of the jungle, I was on top of the world. I finally felt accepted," she recalled.
“With all those positive things came a lot of negativity and before long it was just consuming me. This sadness was just consuming every part of my body.” She first received comments telling her she was too thin, and then she was too big.
On finally calling the Samaritans, she described the voice of a volunteer over the phone as "hope".
Moffatt is not alone, as newly released Samaritans data shows a 22% increase in emotional support calls mentioning loneliness and isolation since the start of the pandemic.
Contacts from callers identified as female showed an even greater increase (26%), compared to callers identified as males (15%) over the same time.
Meanwhile, a separate UK-wide survey, commissioned by the mental health charity reveals how the places we live affect our levels of loneliness and isolation differently. Some 36% of those living in urban areas agreed they felt more isolated or lonely during the pandemic, compared to just 20% in rural areas.
Some 34% of those living in London or Cardiff areas agreed they felt this way during the pandemic due to where they live, nearly three times more than in Norwich (13%) who were least likely to report these feelings.
A generational divide in terms of loneliness is also clear, with 42% of 18-34-year-olds agreeing with the same question, compared to just 14% of over 55s.
That said, loneliness can affect anyone.
“Loneliness is a normal human feeling but if these feelings persist, it can make you feel disconnected from those around you and affect your mental wellbeing. I frequently hear just how challenging it can be during my shifts," said Channique, a Samaritans listening volunteer from Manchester.
“Most of us will feel lonely at some point in our lives. You don’t have to be alone to feel lonely. There’s no shame in recognising feelings of loneliness – or seeking support if you are struggling.”
Watch: How can I improve my mental health?
The Samaritans tips for anyone who may be struggling to cope include:
Myth: You only feel lonely when you're on your own
Truth: Feeling lonely isn't the same as being alone
Although social isolation may cause some people to feel lonely, people can also feel lonely when they're surrounded by friends or family, in a relationship or even in a crowd of people. Loneliness can be a feeling of disconnection rather than a reflection of your social circle.
Myth: Young people rarely feel lonely
Fact: It really doesn't matter how old you are. Loneliness can affect people at any age and most people will experience it at some point in their life.
Myth: It’s obvious when somebody is feeling lonely
Fact: Loneliness isn’t always easy to spot.
You never know what’s going on underneath the surface. People can appear chatty, well supported and active on social media but still be experiencing loneliness. Although there are sometimes signs a person may be struggling, the only real way to know if somebody is feeling lonely is to talk about it.
Loneliness is not something to be embarrassed or ashamed of, and the Samaritans urges talking about it, or listening to someone else who may needs some support.
For more information on loneliness, isolation and how to support yourself and others see the charity's useful page here, or visit their page for information on how to support someone you're worried about.
Anyone can contact Samaritans, free, any time from any phone on 116 123, or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.samaritans.org.
Additional reporting PA.