There has been a lot of talk lately in the media about loneliness due to Britain appointing, for the first time, a minister for loneliness. Tracey Crouch is to take on this role.
More than nine million people in the UK say they are always or often lonely, out of a population of 65.6 million, according to the British Red Cross. That is a staggering number of people! Loneliness and isolation can impact on our mental health greatly and can be exacerbated further by anxiety or stress. This is why we need to come together as a community to help those that are struggling.
At various stages in life people can feel alone. We tend to hear mainly about the elderly population being isolated and not seeing or speaking to anyone for weeks and as result feeling lonely. However, I also wanted to discuss the fact that many young people today can feel alone too.
In 2010, the Mental Health Foundation found that loneliness was a greater concern among 18 to 34-year-olds than over-55s.
I, myself have felt very alone at certain stages of my life. I would like to explain my story. To do that we need to go back in time to when I was a young girl, about the age of 9; I had just moved countries with my family. At the time, I did not realise what was happening. I believed we were going on a holiday. Until the day when I was enrolled in a new school here in Ireland, surrounded by people I didn’t know, then it hit me in the face!… I missed my old school friends and felt terribly lonely, to say the least. Nothing felt as good as the relaxed comfort I had with my old friends. It just wasn’t the same! But eventually, as time went by, and with the help of my sisters, I settled into day-to-day life and made friends. I did not think about loneliness then until a few years later.
A few years passed by and I was entering into secondary school. The friends I had made in primary school were all going to different schools and once again I felt as though everything was being taken from me. It was a very unsettling feeling. In combination with this I was separated from my sister, who a.k.a is like a best friend to me, and I was forced to fend for myself in the petty environment that is school. Initially, I put myself out there, acting extroverted and ‘cool’, when really my true personality was to be an extroverted-, when required, introvert. But over time I became exhausted and knew I wasn’t being my true self. Similar situations occur all the time around the world where young people are not being themselves because of the need to fit in. Following this period of my life and the lessons I learned, I now know that it is better to be your true self and this is what we should be teaching our future generations also.
And finally, the most recent period of loneliness I have experienced was when moving to college and to a different city on my own, away from my family. I was joining a class late and thus many people had already made friends. I was also older than the majority of the people in the class which facilitated in building the gap, that I was already feeling, between myself and them. I felt as though they all had different interests to me; I was into health and nutrition, while they were into binge drinking at clubs. I kept asking myself why do I not fit in? How can I make it work? It is times such as these that you realise how important family are.
Overall, my time in education has been mixed with periods of happiness and fun and periods of deep depression and loneliness. Nobody is exempt from the possibility of feeling/being alone. So I just wanted to make this post to highlight that the issue is not just one that exists in the elderly population but at all stages in life and to help anybody out there going through difficult times to know that you are not alone and things will get better.
Lots of love,