Talking about loneliness
The Tackling Loneliness Strategy Team
We will all experience loneliness at some point in our lives, but research shows most of us won’t talk about it. We need to change this.
Loneliness is an emotion that comes with being human. We want to say, it’s OK to feel lonely.
We are running the Let’s Talk Loneliness campaign for Loneliness Awareness Week, from 17 to 21 June. We think everyone has a part to play in sharing our message.
If you want to join the campaign or learn more about loneliness, visit our website: https://letstalkloneliness.co.uk. This will go live from Monday 17 June, but if you represent an organisation that is interested in supporting the campaign, you can go there now to provide your details.
From Monday, the website will host videos, blogs and a toolkit, and will be the home for further action for the campaign.
Tackling loneliness in the workplace
The Civil Service has signed up to the ‘Employer Pledge’ to tackle loneliness in the workplace, following the publication of the government loneliness strategy in October 2018.
We recognise how the workplace can impact on our sense of loneliness or connections.
We want our workplace to be a supportive and open environment. We want a workplace characterised by trust; by sharing and positive relationships that help people to feel less lonely or isolated.
To understand what this means in practice, we need leadership, good line management, communication and employee confidence in the pledge. And we need support between colleagues. We can offer each other support in everyday moments, and we can look out for teammates when they experience big life changes, like moving home, becoming a parent, or taking on caring responsibilities.
Our loneliness toolkit provides a range of campaign tools and helpful information to help organisations address employee wellbeing. You can find:
- key messaging
- ways to support the campaign
- logo and brand guidelines
- social media posts
How does loneliness feel?
While everyone’s experience of loneliness is different, Caroline Feltham, from DCMS, and Cecilia Da Forno, from Cabinet Office, share their personal thoughts and experiences of loneliness.
It wasn’t until I (finally) moved out of my parents’ house that I truly understood what it means when folks say silence can be loud. It screams.
Having my own place was amazing, at first. I could play music as loud as I wanted; leave the plates as long as I could stand it; tidy, when I was so inclined – after all, no one was coming over.
I didn’t notice him on the first day, nor hear his voice on the second. But by the end of the first month of living alone, he’d made himself at home – Loneliness, my best worst friend. Shortly followed by his best friend (not mine), Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO).
Loneliness doesn’t have to stay. There are ways to break its spell. You need to accept that folks aren’t ignoring you. They are caught in their own dance, just to different music. Technology gives us opportunities to reach across great divides and make a connection.
But technology also tricks us, lulls us into a false state of pride, confuses many ‘likes’ and Facebook friends for real connection and human contact.
So, my advice is to ditch the screen, raise your eyes and get involved in something you like in the real world. You never know where it might lead.
Cecilia Da Forno
I have recently been on an extended training course stretching over several days. While I loved the content and the opportunity, it has also been a very lonely experience. Somehow, I am not the right age or nationality, and don’t come from the right background to get the shared jokes and deploy sarcasm in quite the way the group finds acceptable. All of a sudden, I am back in the school playground, feeling excluded, invisible and useless.
The colleagues on the course are lovely people and yet the dynamics of the group mean I have to work so hard to get a scrap of belonging that, at some point during day three, I stop trying.
This experience was, thankfully, time-bound and it reminded me sharply of how much I value my current team, which is genuinely diverse, and where I feel accepted for who I am and yet encouraged to broaden my perspective. This is not about banning sense of humour or feeling afraid to ask questions or make jokes; and it is not about feeling sorry for me.
It is about paying attention to those around you, noticing if they are struggling to get involved in a conversation and perhaps not asking someone you barely know, “Where are you from?”, as your opening question, just because they look or sound “foreign”. I am sure that you can think of more creative alternatives with a little effort! It is about remembering that most of us, most of the time, want to belong, and about creating opportunities for all of us to do so.
What happens next
The Civil Service is enabling a supportive culture that recognises the positive benefits of volunteering in addressing loneliness. Our employee discussions showed the motivation to volunteer can be influenced by personal experiences and life transitions such as becoming a parent, moving to a new place, bereavement and managing mental health conditions.
Having this motivation and a desire to be a part of a ‘collective’ experience or community can give people a sense of joy and purpose and prevent the feelings of loneliness.
Loneliness doesn’t have to be a shameful secret or label. It can happen to anyone. Help us break the stigma by joining the conversation on Twitter – #LetsTalkLoneliness.
You may also be interested in:
- 'This is me' - opening up about mental health
- Using data to improve employee wellbeing
- (Sailing on) the 7Es of wellbeing
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