Suicide Prevention

Eleanor Rigby, Loneliness, and Suicide

By Tiago Zortea.

“Ah look at all the lonely people!
All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?”

The thought provoking, sad, and very reflective Beatles’ song, “Eleanor Rigby” shocked me when I listened to it for the first time many years ago. For a teenager who was starting to understand how life works and how to navigate relationships, I found the song extremely thought provoking. Who wants to be lonely? Who wishes to have no bonds? Though the music expert Richie Unterberger suggests that Eleanor Rigby focuses on “the neglected concerns and fates of the elderly”, the song tells us about a human experience that can be devastating regardless of age: the constant feeling of being lonely.

The American psychiatrist Harry Stack Sullivan defined loneliness as “the exceedingly unpleasant and driving experience connected with inadequate discharge of the need for human intimacy, for interpersonal intimacy” [1]. From this perspective, loneliness cannot be accounted for by physical isolation only. Someone may live alone but not feel lonely. On the other hand, a person may live surrounded by people and feel completely isolated. Therefore, loneliness is explained by an emotional or subjective component (lack of an attachment figure, feeling lonely), and by an objective component (lack of social relationships, living alone) [2, 3, 4]. What determines whether loneliness is harmful to someone is how the person feels about it and to what extent being lonely affects their lives emotionally, socially and professionally. It is known that loneliness can be associated with mental health issues such as depression, alcoholism, drugs abuse [3], suicidal ideation and self-harm [4].

Continue reading this article at >> IHAWKES.



Tiago Zortea (@zortea_tiago) is a Clinical Psychologist, MSc Psychology & Human Ethology, and a PhD student in the Suicidal Behaviour Research Laboratory, University of Glasgow (

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