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Loneliness Awareness Week

Loneliness Awareness Week is organised by The Marmalade Trust who aim “to find and support isolated people to reconnect with society and enjoy better lives”. 

The week-long campaign is relatively new and was first launched in 2017 as a bid to both raise awareness of loneliness as a National issue, and to offer solutions on how to combat it. The theme of this year’s campaign is reducing the stigma around loneliness, and encouraging more people to talk about their experiences.

Loneliness is often hidden away and not talked about which furthers the isolation felt by those experiencing it. This feeling of isolation is ironic as it is actually something that unites us, as it is incredibly common and will touch most of us at some point in our lives. 

A study by The Co-op and the British Red Cross revealed that over 9 million people in the UK across all adult ages are either always or often lonely. As well as this, according to Age UK half a million older people go at least five or six days a week without seeing or speaking to anyone at all, but this is not the only group affected. 

It is experienced by the old and the young, extroverts and introverts alike, and can have a negative impact on not only mental health, but physical health as well. One report claimed that having poor social connections was actually as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. 

Taking all of this into consideration, it’s alarming that many of us go about our day to day lives without talking about it and without seeking help. 

One of the hashtags popularised by this campaign is #ItsOkToBeLonely which is reminiscent of #ItsOkNotToBeOk from the recent mental health awareness campaigning. The rise of these sentiments marks a much needed turn away from the stoic self-sufficiency that has been the accepted norm, to a mentality that celebrates helping each other and allowing others to help us in turn.

In terms of homelessness, loneliness is a big issue at every stage of the process. Rough sleeping itself is an incredibly isolating experience, but the problem does not go away once someone is housed.

When someone who is recovering from homelessness manages to move into their own property it is often not in a community where they have strong ties, or even if it is, these old links may not be conducive to recovery and people often choose to cut themselves off from the negative influences from their former lives.

Due to this, people moving on from homelessness can go from a situation where they are living in a supported accommodation surrounded by lots of people and receiving a high level of interpersonal support, to a situation where they are alone in a flat without the same network of support around them.

Community activities and volunteering act as lifelines in this situation.

When we move someone on, we try to signpost them to facilities of interest in the local area, and having these hubs of support and interaction can make all the difference. We also have a wonderful network of volunteers who offer their time to help this transition period.

A befriender can go and visit an individual after they have moved on and help them with small domestic tasks, or just go for a chat and a cup of tea. Just half an hour of human interaction can make the future seem more positive, and can make someone more likely to sustain their tenancy and not fall back into homelessness.

Loneliness is not something to be ashamed of or to hide. It is something that we should be talking about, and that can be overcome through more investment in community activities and volunteering.

Resources:

aDoddle helps to map charities and community projects nearby

Neighbourly shows you what is going on in your area

Volunteer Cornwall helps to match volunteers and organisations

Email us on support@harbourhousing.com if you’re interested in volunteering with us.

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