Loneliness in young people - it's a thing!
Do young people feel lonely? Sadly, yes. More and more young people share that the main issue affecting them, day by day, is loneliness.
Imagine a young person who has a mum, a dad, siblings, friends. Would you think they were lonely? Even those young people who, from the outside, would appear to 'have everything' in terms of support around them, feel lonely. Because, actually, if you break each individual area down, it’s not all it seems from the young person's perspective...
- “Mum has a new boyfriend and wants to spend time with him, so leaves me on my own a lot. We don't speak anymore”.
- “Dad has his new family and told me he only wants me there if I'm smiling and happy. But I'm not, so I don't feel comfortable being there”.
- “My brother has moved away and doesn't speak to me as much anymore, he’s got his own life”.
- “My friends live far away and I can't go out to spend time with them, so they’ve stopped asking me to do things”.
All of these experiences have left this young person feeling isolated, low, worthless, and that self-harm and possible suicide are her only options.
- “Self-harming is the only thing that helps”.
- ”What's the point in being alive? no one would miss me”.
- “I can't tell my family or friends, they’re not interested”.
- “I wanted to die”.
This is the reality of what loneliness means to this young person. Although this is one specific example, I have heard numerous accounts from young people where their situations and experiences might be different, but that overwhelming sense of loneliness is the same.
Jo Cox was an MP who was canvassing to bring awareness around the topic of loneliness, particularly in relation to older people. She sadly passed away, but in 2017 the Jo Cox Commission published its manifesto setting out a series of recommendations to central government, as well as local authorities and wider civil society around the topic of loneliness. The Prime Minister then announced, in October 2018, 'a connected society: a strategy for tackling loneliness – laying the foundations for change', which is aimed to approach the issues around loneliness.
In December 2018, ONS published their first-ever report on children's loneliness, which makes for startling reading. They linked in with The Children's Society to conduct the research. With this being excellent progress in the right direction, it highlights that more research is needed in this area.
Why is it important?
There appears to be a fine line between allowing young people the space to develop, become individuals, and to find their place in the world. But to be able to do this they need to feel confident, supported, and connected.
Let's talk about it! Let's check in with our young people. Don’t assume that they want to be left alone. Is there a better balance in allowing them the space they need to develop, and still helping them to feel connected? Is there a way they can let you know when they're feeling lonely? Help them to identify support that they can access.
To feel lonely is to feel isolated. To feel isolated is to feel disconnected. To feel disconnected is to feel like you don't belong. As human beings, we all want to feel connected - we all want to belong.
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