Loneliness is, according to the dictionary’s definition, a “sadness because one has no friends or company”!
This feeling can inevitably lead to isolation and depression very quickly and easily. As I was watching the news the other day, I learned that Britain has appointed the world’s first Minister for Loneliness. Apparently, the responsible MP will be dealing with developing a wider strategy on the issue of soaring loneliness in Britain, gathering evidence and providing the funding for community groups.
We, at IDEAL-English Language and Culture from Brighton/UK- spend the afternoons taking our IDEAL-customers from all over the world to places where they can practise their command of English in “real live situations/confrontations” and also interact socially and culturally. It has become very evident during our various excursions , when visiting Brighton, London and other cities, but also towns and even villages, that not only homeless people have to face and endure the horrible state of loneliness. We have been facing a rapidly increasing amount of people from all age groups and walks of life suffering from despair and loneliness since the “modern era” started a few decades ago.
When visiting my mother of 93 in her care home, I realise that, most of the time, the amount of family members and/or friends/acquaintances, dropping in to see their beloved ones/fellow residents, is appallingly low. The pangs of loneliness, based on social isolation, bite and hurt visibly. Just a brief: “Hello, Madam, how are you?” lights up the faces of many elderly and demented people who deserve a lot more than just being “clinically” looked after!
But what changes are needed to really tackle the epidemic of loneliness? Well, to begin with, we can all try ourselves to do small acts of individual kindness, which together can have a huge impact on our nation as a whole. A long-term government strategy is needed to build awareness and find solutions, especially within public health, housing and community development. We all have a role to play to curb loneliness among older people, friends, relatives, neighbours and people we do not know! An increasing number of people in Britain haven’t spoken to another human being in weeks! Tackling loneliness means looking at measures to bring people together. To encourage this, we need stronger communities that can provide the necessary “social glue”. At a more basic level, I feel we need to highlight the value of talking to each other – also on crowded commuter trains! We need to start early, preferably in schools, educating young people about opening up and asking for support if they need it and giving help in return.
All of us at IDEAL-Brighton/UK would very much like to hear from you what the situation concerning loneliness is like in your country, and which mechanisms, in your opinion, should be used to fight loneliness most effectively.
All best wishes to you and your family,
Peter from IDEAL-English Language and Culture/Brighton-UK