Recently, there has been a growing awareness of and political interest in loneliness as a significant social problem.
At the Hub, we want to continue to raise awareness of this issue that affects our whole community. (You can check out our previous blog posts on this important subject here.)
In the past, reports have focused on the social isolation of older age groups, perhaps due to our ageing population. Yet contrary to assumptions about loneliness being a consequence of ageing, it seems that young people are at the epicentre of the crisis. A recent study says that young adults are more likely to feel lonely than older age groups.
The research found that almost 10% of people aged 16 to 24 were “always or often” lonely – the highest proportion of any age group.
(The Office for National Statistics)
So why is this happening? The common conclusion jumped to by the media and politicians alike is that social media is the root of this problem. And thus social platforms like SnapChat and Instagram are vilified, as well as the youth themselves, who can’t seem to drag themselves away from lit-up phone screens. But is this really the main issue? Author and campaigner Natasha Devon MBE suggests that “it’s easier to park every teenage mental health concern with social media – then nobody is to blame.”
The subject of loneliness is sometimes defined as “a discrepancy between what you want in terms of social relationships and what you have.” Social media unfortunately widens the gap between this desire and reality as teens feel the pressure to succeed in every area of life, including friendships. But it’s hard to find the time to focus on school, friendships, extra-curricular activities and family life. Many teenagers feel they are failing to achieve the standards required of them in our busy society. Often at least one of these areas is overlooked in favour of prioritising academic success.
“62-70% of teenagers say it really matters to them what grades they get”. They want to “make their parents proud”, says Natasha Kizzie, an executive director of the National Citizen Service. “They’re far more engaged. They’re highly preoccupied by their academic performance and their future job prospects.”
This means that they spend less time building meaningful and supportive relationships. Social media lowers rates of face-to-face contact, which can harm a child’s communication and social skills. Without a trusted support network, many teenagers may find themselves lost and without guidance when facing personal struggles.
So how are we working to bring about change?
Since the Hub opened in January, we’ve had people of all ages, from 18 to 90, coming through our doors. At the Hub, our pastoral carers provide a listening ear and friendship. Our welcome centre is a safe environment for those feeling isolated to share the challenges of life and find community. We understand that anyone can feel lonely or isolated. And we recognise the damaging impact it can have on both your life and your health.
But now we’d like to reach out further to the isolated youth in our community. The Hub soon hopes to open its doors for an evening a week to provide pastoral care to young people. We want to give love and care to those who are facing challenges at home, struggling with school, or suffering from a severe loss of self-esteem.
‘Young people are the hope for the future in the making.’
‘They need to be shown that they matter, that they are valued’, says Jo-Ann Hughes, Hub Executive Director. ‘They need positive role models who demonstrate how to develop healthy attitudes and caring relationships. All too common now is the issue of self-harm and anxiety. Our youth need to know who to trust, where to turn for healthy advice and reassurance. This is why we would like to open our doors to teenagers for safe mentoring at the Harrogate Hub.’
What do you think are the causes of youth loneliness? Join the conversation on our twitter, facebook, or instagram page…
Would you, your youth group, or business like to fundraise for our youth project? Please get in touch and we can send you our fundraising pack, and share more about our work with you. Or if you would like to volunteer as a pastoral carer, we’d love to hear from you.
Written by Grace Hart
Edited by Ella Green