Let’s talk loneliness in our communities for Loneliness Awareness Week

Did you know over 9 million people in the UK are either “always” or “often” feeling lonely?

This week is #LonelinessAwarenessWeek, a time to talk about loneliness, how it affects our wellbeing and ways to reach out to others in the community who might be isolated. We will all experience loneliness now and again but research shows most of us won’t talk about it for fear of feeling embarrassed. The government have also just launched their ‘Let’s Talk Loneliness’ campaign, introduced to combat the stigma of feeling alone. 

“Loneliness is one of the biggest health challenges our country faces.”  explains Mims Davies, Minister for Loneliness.

“It can affect anyone at any time and its impact is in line with smoking or obesity. But we can only begin to help one another if we feel able to understand, recognise and talk about it.”

Loneliness doesn’t just affect the elderly, people who have moved to a different area or new mums either. A recent YouGov survey revealed that 3 in 4 people aged 18-24 are most likely to say they have felt lonely. In contrast, 63% of people over 55 said they never feel lonely. Loneliness can affect people of all ages, genders and cultures, so it’s important to tackle the stigma for all walks of life.

#LonelinessAwarenessWeekis a great time to consider making positive changes, reflecting on how we can improve the health and happiness in our communities. Here are a few ideas on how your council can help to combat loneliness in your community.

Raising awareness
The best way to break down the stigma around an issue is to talk about it. There are plenty of great resources around #LonelinessAwarenessWeek as well as the new government campaign, so why not show your support in a positive way?
Work with local groups
Relationships with local groups are key for combatting isolation. Whether they are supporting a particular age group, faith or interest, they will probably have the same goal when it comes to loneliness.

Be inclusive
Common risk factors for loneliness include being over 80, hearing or sight loss, having no phone access and being unable to drive. Bear this in mind when supporting the campaign, establishing an age-friendly, dementia-friendly and mental health-friendly approach, as well as options for affordable and accessible transport.

Encourage volunteers
Develop volunteering and inter-generational support in neighbourhoods. Consider a “befriending” scheme where people can enjoy trips out, games and dog walks with someone else in the community.

Use existing resources
Most local authorities have the likes of leisure centres, parks and village halls that can be used to bring communities together at low cost. On quieter days, perhaps encourage initiatives such as free swimming to the over 60s or music groups for new parents to bring people together.

How is your council combating the stigma against loneliness? We’d love to hear your stories! Get in touch or join the conversation on our Twitter @bhibcouncils.
Sources and further reading:
YouGov Survey: Total sample size was 2114 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 17th – 20th May 2019. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

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