As most people will know this is a social problem that British society has had for a long time. The problem in recent years has become a lot worse. Apparently the problem is more serious than obesity. It’s not that loneliness and isolation is a health problem itself, however it often leads to mental health problems, also some people may turn to alcohol and some use so called recreational drugs as a form of escapism. This as we all know is not a healthy lifestyle to lead. The problem unfortunately affects all areas of society especially in deprived areas of high unemployment where people do not have the money to go out and socialise. Elderly people often go weeks without seeing anybody except may be a professional carer who may pop in once a day to check that they are okay.
Another major group includes single males usually under the age of twenty five, they may lack qualifications and skills so getting any sort of employment is an uphill struggle. Ex offenders and the homeless, also people who are housebound due to disability will often find it particularly hard to meet people. Of course this problem can affect even working people. Often people are too tired to socialise. That said often pubs and bars are often inappropriate places to meet new people. As with everything in life there are always exceptions. Some people are just introverted which can make socialising very difficult.
Fear is also a factor in being lonely and this can apply to any set of circumstances. For example a person who is agoraphobic would be stepping outside their comfort zone once they had left their home, just for a short visit to the shop. In contrast somebody with mobility problems may want to leave their house but may be unable to do so without the aid of a carer.
Lets be realistic the problem of loneliness and isolation like many other social problems in society isn’t going to be eradicated however there is much that can be done to reduce the problem. One development that is being run in partnership with Age UK and Groundwork is the Men in Sheds project. This is a great project which takes advantage of the fact that historically men on allotments and the like have always enjoyed DIY projects, potting plants, meeting each other to share advice, share a joke brew some tea and generally enjoy each others company.
Befriending schemes are another important way of tackling loneliness and isolation. Many people with mental health problems and learning disabilities often rely on these to help them give some structure to their lives. The problem is there just aren’t enough of these. People who need befriending often need this service during working hours when many people are unavailable. Hence the lack of opportunity for many people to become befrienders and this coupled with the shortage of schemes in the first place makes the problem even worse. There is a charity called ‘Making Space’ which is a national organisation. Their Leeds office is in Hunslet. They run befriending schemes primarily to help people who suffer from mental illness. After appropriate training a befriender will be matched with a befriendee. They meet up probably not more than once a week, maybe to chew the fat over a pot of tea.
This article was written by David Clarke using our Community Reporters website