YEP Readers' Panel were quick to comment on topical question "What more can we do to address Leeds' loneliness epidemic?"
This week's "Let’s think again about loneliness" front page coverage, echoing our #speakyourmind community campaign, reported a city MP's call on everyone in the city to re-examine how they live their lives in a bid to combat this escalating “social epidemic”.
Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness co-chair, Leeds West member Rachel Reeves's assertion loneliness has become “structured into society” prompted concerned and compassionate comments from our forum.
When i was younger my friends had extended family members living with them, grandma's looked after the kids and helped in the home. there was always plenty of chatter, neighbours looked out for other neighbours and society was tight. There was usually a nosy neighbour overseeing the security in the street. Thatcherism changed all that, the "me first society" developed and has never changed back to the old family values. Loneliness is just one of the things created as well as poverty and homelessness. We need to talk to other people and interact but many people are afraid of the reaction they might receive. Maybe a phone line similar to the Samaritans, where people can talk to each other, might be a start. I think speaking to people face to face, and not on the computer, is the best way to make soulful connections. I chatted to a young guy, sitting on his coat in a doorway, who was homeless. His story was sad. I think that our chatting, and the help I was able to give him, made us both feel valued a little.
Social change which took place in the '50s and 60s changed our values fundamentally. We cannot go back. Charities and local authorities must be funded to find the lonely people and enable them to find a solution, which is right for them. Not a one-size-fits-all. I am nearly 70 and would not want to be herded together with old people. Society changes took place before Thatcher. Aspiration (or greed), the drive for home ownership, the nuclear family, opportunities for women, all pre-dated her. We British are an uptight bunch, I agree. And many taboos are beginning to be challenged, but who do you tell? This thread keeps bringing me back to the recently reissued (sampled) Ralph McTell song "Streets of London".
The 'halo' politicians will weep over anything, demonise a problem to raise awareness, then do little to solve it. People care as a rule. We need to be the eyes and ears, notice the signs and act accordingly.
You could be in a room full of people and still feel lonely. I’ve many a time felt deep loneliness but what else can you do?
Could we maybe not make it political? Although, maybe a round table discussion on politics is a great idea for the future. We all have a part to play in making sure people aren't lonely, all year round, not just at Christmas. This digital age means that we often live our lives so fast. We need to remember to stop and speak to each other and have an actual face to face conversation rather than email/text etc. Never be afraid to talk and say hello to someone. You never know what that might mean to someone!
What does not help is the taboo associated with 'admitting' you are lonely. We need to make it easier for people to voice their loneliness by acknowledging that we also have been lonely. After all, the feeling of loneliness can be useful, in that it can help people to start making necessary changes.
Joanne St Lawrence
I live on my own and I am retired, but I never feel lonely. Luckily I am fairly fit and have a car, so I can get out and about. I have lived in the same area for many years and have good neighbours. I love quiz shows and 'memories' websites where you can chat. There are two groups near me which provide meals and activities throughout the week and include transport suitable for the disabled. I know there are groups in most areas. The problem is connecting them with people. I like writing these comments every week as well!
Loneliness is usually a temporary condition. All it takes is one another person, and you - and they - are no longer on their own. Make an effort, say hello, call round, pick up the phone, invite them over. This is not hard. Just do it! You will be amazed at how good you, and they, feel.
Sophie Mei Lan
Loneliness can come in many forms from isolated families and elderly people to working from home. We need to accept that loneliness is a big issue and is often unseen. Everyone needs to be treated as an individual, which is why we need more money into grassroots charities, on the ground supporting people in our communities, such as Homestart. They were a lifeline to me. They came to my house when I was poorly and helped my children and I to play and go to the park. But sadly we invest in "big gestures" rather than such worthy causes nowadays.
Loneliness is not confined to the elderly. All ages and ranges of backgrounds can feel lonely. Being alone should not be confused with loneliness. Equally, having a partner etc does not equate to not being lonely. There is a helpline for seniors called "The Silver Line" which is free to use and needs to be made wider in public knowledge. But I feel this needs extending for all ages. We all need to be aware of, and support, anyone we perceive could be lonely, and speak to them to see if they need a little company, but don't assume they do.
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