Thursday, 26 May 2022
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Thursday, 26 May 2022

Foundations reporting that loneliness is an increasingly prevalent issue

Rosemary Macdonald, CEO, UK Community Foundations writes

It’s been an incredibly difficult two years for people, communities, and places. Most of us will never have experienced anything like the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021. Our collective experience of the pandemic will be with us for many years to come. 

If you ask the public: what made those days at home so difficult? Not being able to see our family, friends, and loved ones would no doubt be one of the most common responses. Connection is everything. It’s our relationships with people that matter most. There’s no doubt that this was one of the hardest elements of lockdown. In fact, research by the Mental Health Foundation during the pandemic found almost a quarter of UK adults felt lonely because of the coronavirus

Loneliness is the theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week. Loneliness impacts people in many ways. It is associated with a range of mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. It is also known to increase the risk of premature death, risk of stroke, high blood pressure and heart disease. 

The causes of loneliness are complex. Like all mental health issues, it doesn’t discriminate. It can affect everyone – rural, urban, young, or old. The way in which we support people experiencing loneliness varies.

We know from our network of community foundations that loneliness is becoming an increasingly prevalent issue across a range of demographics. As ever, our incredible voluntary sector is responsive to the needs of people experiencing loneliness:

  • The Harbour Project helps refugees and asylum seekers rebuild their lives in Swindon. With funding from the Wiltshire Community Foundation, it was able to provide food, reassurance and friendship for lonely and isolated families and individuals when its centre had to close during the pandemic.
  • With support from the Essex Community Foundation, Home-Start Essex will be able to support 60 parents in Braintree who are facing challenges with raising young children. While their children play, parents and carers, have the opportunity to connect with others while receiving support and enjoying well-being sessions. The programme will last for two years.
  • Thanks to our partnership with Cellnex UK, Lincolnshire Community Foundation was able to support Tonic Health. In turn, the group was able to help residents improve their digital skills and connect with others. They were also able to help people access public services.
  • With support from the East End Community Foundation, the Shoreditch Trust launched the ‘We Connect’ befriending programme to support vulnerable people during the lockdown. Local residents stepped forward to provide immediate, practical support to their neighbours. These small and friendly interactions proved to be of great value to the programme’s participants.

These examples are a snapshot of the work that is happening to combat loneliness in communities across the UK. As place-based funders, we want to see our communities thrive. We know that a happier and healthier community is one that is better connected.

Although the dark days of lockdown are behind us, we still have a long way to go. As well as supporting the local organisations that are keeping people connected, we must do all we can to break the stigma of loneliness. 

The Mental Health Foundation has published advice for anyone experiencing loneliness which can be found here.

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