How to overcome loneliness this winter
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With winter setting in and the continuing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, loneliness is affecting more people than ever this year.
One YMCA, which operates across Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, and Buckinghamshire, has its headquarters and largest homeless hostel at Charter Place, in the heart of Watford.
Supporting different groups through a range of crucial services across multiple communities, the organisation is now reaching out further and launching its Winter Loneliness Campaign.
Grace Harper, supporter engagement officer, says there is help out there for those in need and she urges anyone feeling lonely this winter to reach out.
Q: Why is loneliness a particular issue at the moment?
Throughout 2020 we have noticed a rise within our services of people struggling in a variety of ways. The pandemic has meant so many aspects of normal life are now missing; we are seeing young people who are now no longer able to go to their extra-curricular clubs and new parents who cannot attend the baby groups that they found so supportive, for example. All of this has a knock-on effect on mental and emotional wellbeing.
Q: Which groups of people are particularly affected by loneliness?
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The Office for National Statistics (ONS) recently released new data on loneliness in the UK, as it is now a major public health issue. Surprisingly, it is the younger groups of people who are badly affected: over half of those aged 16 to 24 years were more likely to have experienced lockdown loneliness, according to the figures. This highlights the need for our Youth Work services more than ever; to be able to nurture the connections we have with young local people.
Q: What would you say to someone reading this if they are experiencing loneliness?
Don’t be afraid to use the connections you have – just pick up the phone or drop someone you know a message. There is absolutely no shame in asking for help, or even just saying you need a chat. Local organisations, such as YMCA, exist to support people so they can belong, contribute and thrive. Please visit our website oneymca.org for information on all our support services.
Q: What is One YMCA doing to tackle loneliness in Hertfordshire?
We recognise the importance of maintaining connections with our service users throughout this challenging year. Each of our services has adapted to bring advice and support online. Our Hertfordshire Family Centres are still offering classes via Zoom and our youth services have made a series of videos. Within our hostels, we’ve tried to carry on group activities, with PPE and physical distancing in place. We don’t want to just abandon people in this time of crisis so we are doing what we can.
Q: How can people get involved to help YMCA combat loneliness this winter?
This Christmas, we are hoping to send activity packs to local families in need and give wellbeing packs to our hostel residents. We hope to run some festive activities, a reflection service and a meal for our residents, but need to cover the cost of PPE and screens for our canteen as well. We hope all these things will contribute to combatting loneliness, by bringing a sense of belonging in a time of isolation and separation.
To find out more and donate to the campaign, please visit oneymca.org/loneliness