As a working dad with three not-so young children: one at sixth form college and two at university (and the eldest about to become a dad himself), I don’t think I’m alone in often hoping for a little quiet time to myself. Sadly though, for a lot of people solitude is all they know.
Likewise I am sadly confident that the vast majority of people living across Tameside today have experienced at one time or another the utter despair of loneliness; whether experiencing it personally, or knowing a family member or friend who has been through it – we can all relate.
What compounds the problem is that the majority of people affected won’t talk about it. They’d rather admit or discuss all sorts of other things rather than talk about feeling lonely.
There are a lot of different factors fuelling this problem – more people than ever before are living alone, we have a growing ageing population, and all of us are commuting further and further distances to get to, and from work. Among our youngsters too there is also growing evidence of a link between the excessive use of social media and an increase in mental health problems.
Sadly at the same time that we’ve been discussing loneliness as a society more and more, we’ve also seen increases in rates of suicide. Today, suicide is the most common cause of death for men aged 20-49 in England and Wales, with rates among teenagers rising.
Although we have come a long way as a society from the days where people with depression or other mental health conditions were told to ‘suck it up’ or ‘grow up’, there is still a lot of progress to be made.
Now earlier this year I shared my own story in the hope that those that read it would feel more confident in coming forward to talk about their experiences of loneliness or depression. As well as having a history of mental ill-health in my family; we’ve been affected by suicide, attempted suicide, and addiction; I suffered from my own personal problems.
Luckily for me I was surrounded by great friends and a brilliant family (especially my long-suffering wife, Allison) who have all helped me reach the point I’m at today where I’ve never felt better in myself.
Volunteers and wider communities are a key part of solving this crisis which is why I fully support the work of the Samaritans. Anybody can contact the Samaritans, in person or via phone, email or text message. It is a confidential service for anyone feeling like they are struggling to cope or that they need someone to talk to who isn’t a close friend or family member. As someone with his own mental health story I can assure you that something so simple has far reaching consequences for someone’s life.
The story of the Samaritans is a noble one indeed. Created in 1953, it was set up after its founder had heard the story of a girl aged 14 who had started her period, but who had no-one to talk and believed that she had a sexually transmitted disease – tragically, that girl took her own life out of shame.
Thankfully as a society our communities are much friendlier and understanding towards social issues like loneliness and suicide than the past. So as winter sets-in and we enter the Advent season, let us always remember the power of simple, unrestrained friendship toward the most vulnerable, and let us all play our part in tackling social isolation.
Whatever you’re going through, please feel free to give the Samaritans a ring at any time, from any phone, on 116 123. If you prefer contacting someone electronically, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Remember, you’re not alone.