Q: I'm feeling lonely and it's getting me down. What can I do to feel less isolated?

A: I’m sorry to hear that you are feeling lonely. Spending time with other people enriches our lives and it’s a hard situation to resolve by yourself. But there is support available to help you make the first steps.

Loneliness has many different causes and it can affect people of all ages. Another way that loneliness can worsen is if we see the cause of our loneliness as something that will not change: that it is just part of who we are or of becoming older.

However, you do not have to be on your own all the time to feel lonely. Many people feel lonely in a relationship or while spending time with friends or family. You might find it hard to explain to people why you feel this way, but talking to someone could help you find a solution.

If you can, try talking about your feelings to a friend, family member, carer, health professional or counsellor. Your GP surgery may be able to suggest people to contact locally that can help you connect with other people in your neighbourhood. First Step can help you if you are feeling depressed or anxious.

If you’re grieving for a partner or friend that you have known a long time and your sad feelings are holding you back from seeking a new way to live your life, without your loved one, therapy can help to let you think about your life in a different way. If you are an older person looking to make new friends, contact Age UK for advice and support.

Consider joining a group or class that focuses on something you enjoy; you could ask to go along and just watch first if you're feeling nervous. Many people find volunteering a satisfying way to meet new people – and charities are always looking for volunteers.

Try and get out to places where you can just be around other people – for example, a park, or a café.

Perhaps someone who has had the same feelings as you would be able to help – this is called ‘peer support’, where people use their experiences to help each other. You can telephone your local Mind to find our more, or Find out more about peer support on the Mind website. There are little steps you can take for yourself, such as planning something every day to look forward to (eg a phone call, watching a film, making yourself a nice meal), or stepping out into the garden, if you have one, or finding a window with a view to take in the ‘outside world’ and appreciate the nature around you.

Q: A family member has recently been diagnosed with hepatitis - how can I protect myself from catching it?

A: Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver. It's usually the result of a viral infection or by excessive alcohol drinking. It can’t be easily caught by regular social contact, there needs to be either blood or bodily fluids passing between people.

Often, hepatitis develops without any symptoms. If symptoms do develop, they can include: muscle and joint pain; feeling unusually tired all the time; loss of appetite; tummy pain; dark urine or pale, grey-coloured poo.

Alcoholic hepatitis is caused by drinking excessive amounts of alcohol over many years and is not infectious. Stopping drinking will usually allow your liver to recover, but there's a risk you could eventually develop cirrhosis, liver failure or liver cancer if you continue. You can reduce your risk of developing alcoholic hepatitis by controlling how much you drink. It's recommended that you do not regularly drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week. If you are struggling to reduce your drinking, please seek help – the Well Communities can help you with this.

The most common type of Hepatitis in the UK is Hepatitis C. It's usually spread through blood-to-blood contact with an infected person, for example through sharing needles used to inject drugs. Used needles retain traces of blood. If that blood contains HIV, hepatitis or another type of virus, the next person using the syringe could be infected. Many people who are infected have no noticeable symptoms, or only flu-like symptoms, so many people are unaware they're infected and there aren’t obvious signs that someone has an infection. For injecting drug users, the safest way to avoid infection from hepatitis or any other virus is to use a sterile needle or use an opioid substitute that is swallowed. If you are in a sexual relationship with someone who is an injecting drug user, you should always make sure you use a condom. If you want to tackle an addiction, please contact Unity

Other types of hepatitis are linked to contaminated or undercooked food or are contracted by children in specific parts of the world and are very rare in the UK. You can protect yourself with a vaccination, particularly if you are travelling to an area where hepatitis is common, such as the Indian subcontinent, Africa, Central and South America, the Far East and eastern Europe. Check the Foreign Office Advice page for the health conditions in the area you are travelling to.

When travelling to parts of the world with poor sanitation, where hepatitis may be common, you can reduce your risk by practising good food and water hygiene measures. For example, drink bottled water and avoid ice in drinks, make sure your food has been thoroughly cooked and is still hot when served. Avoid any uncooked food apart from fruits and vegetables or food that can be peeled or shelled.