Deena Goff, an advisor to SMART Cranleigh, writes…
Loneliness is a perfectly normal perceived feeling rather than an actual condition. It is one that everyone struggles with at one time or another. It can be experienced by all ages from isolated babies, children in nursery, through school, university, work, retirement and the elderly. People from all walks of life from celebrities and the rich to the most vulnerable, poor and frail can be affected. A change in life’s circumstances can trigger loneliness such as that experienced by new parents, single parents, sole carers, moving home, refugees, expatriates, bereavement and those with growing impairments in sight, hearing and mobility. Carers and those who are restricted by physical and mental disabilities are particularly vulnerable.
Loneliness leads to further withdrawal from social contact, clinical depression, mental and physical ill health, and can lead to self-harm through drink, drugs, and eating disorders. Its prevalence in the UK has grown as other conditions (morbidity) and average life expectancy have improved.
The UK Government, recognising the pernicious effects loneliness has on society, has appointed the Minister for Sport and Civil Society, Tracey Crouch, as the ministerial lead for loneliness. She will take forward the work done by Jo Cox, the Foundation and the Commission for loneliness. The Government will be developing a strategy and will provide a dedicated fund for various initiatives.
Human beings are social animals. “Being connected to others socially is widely considered a fundamental human need – crucial to both well-being and survival,” says psychologist Julianne Holt-Lunstad from Brigham Young University, Utah, USA.
SMART Cranleigh, whose mission is “Connecting the Community”, aims to improve the community wellbeing by enabling its residents to make social connections. SMART Cranleigh is developing a database of the many organisations, activities and groups already running in Cranleigh. This information will help both the providers and consumers, of these community services, to connect with each other. This website, with regularly updated information and a community calendar, will act as a main focal point of information for all residents.
Although Government initiatives and funds will be welcomed where appropriate, the emphasis within SMART Cranleigh is to encourage sustainable self-sufficiency and self-reliance. Here are a few tips to prevent or cope with loneliness when it strikes. Engaging in any one of these activities can make a difference and foster a sense of wellbeing.