Loneliness is a deeply private affliction, but it’s also a modern public health crisis.
Following on from our blog post about loneliness at the end of last year, we thought we’d start the New Year with a conversation about loneliness in our town.
Whilst we’ve been thinking about this problem on a local scale, it’s been really encouraging to see that loneliness is now being raised as an issue that needs to be tackled nationwide. This month we saw the appointment of a minister for loneliness. This new development has sparked off a national conversation about the problem. An article in the Guardian, published earlier this week, by journalist Kate Leaver, helpfully discusses the stigma attached to loneliness and the ways in which we can overcome it:
“The very first thing is to identify it. Naming the feeling, saying the words “I’m lonely” out loud, and preferably in the presence of a trusted human being, strips that malevolent emotion of some of its power…Shame clings to loneliness like a pernicious little pilot fish, so it’s best to vanquish it as quickly as possible. It is not shameful to be lonely – it is human and it is natural and it is salvageable.”
This is why we’ve started our own conversation about loneliness in our town. We hope that by talking about this topic, we can help people to realise that they are not alone in their loneliness and empower them to seek support. We’ve been asking the people of Harrogate to tell us what they think causes loneliness. Here are some of the responses:
- Busyness – we are all so ‘busy doing stuff’ that we often don’t notice those around us who might be feeling lonely.
- Family breakups or disagreements. And some people don’t have family living nearby.
- There’s an ageing population in Harrogate, and it can be difficult to engage with neighbours.
- People don’t want to take time from their own schedules to see how others might be doing, particularly the elderly.
- Social anxiety
- Self- isolation due to mental health or other issues
How are we helping?
At the Hub, we have many visitors who come through our doors because they are feeling isolated and are looking for community. We provide a listening ear, friendship, and a safe space to share the challenges of life. We also help people get involved in the life of our community, whether that’s by signposting them to a relevant church or community group, or inviting them to join one of the Hub’s own social activities.
After the success of our Knitted Angels project last year, the Hub is restarting a Knit and Natter group on Monday afternoons to give people the opportunity to make new friends and talk things through with a cuppa and a ball of wool! Although non-knitters are also very much welcomed!
However, we’re aware that many people work during the daytime and will be unable to visit the Hub or other social groups. Harrogate blogger, Stuart, writes that “Loneliness is not just an issue facing the elderly – it crosses all age bands.”
For this reason, we will soon be opening in the evenings, and on the 16th February we’ll be hosting an exciting games night, a free event, particularly aimed at people in their 20s and 30s. Check out the Facebook event page here. There’s very little provided for this age group in Harrogate, so we hope to run events like this on a monthly basis to provide an opportunity for young people to have some fun and meet new friends. Each month, we’ll be inviting someone from our community to share their personal story at the event, whether it’s their experience of loneliness, or their experience of other related issues, such as mental illness, addiction, and loss.
If you’d like to share your story, please do get in touch. We’d love to hear from you and perhaps feature you in a future blog post or invite you to give a brief talk at one of our events. We all experience loneliness at some point in their lives and we want to help remove the stigma.
If you or someone you know is struggling with feelings of loneliness, why not pop into the Hub, give us a call, or come along to one of our events? We’ll help you find a sense of connectedness again – to yourself, to family, friends, neighbours, and your community.
Written by Ella Green