Loneliness During the Coronavirus Pandemic: A blog by The Marmalade Trust
In the run-up to Christmas, our team worked tirelessly to plan Christmas Day events across the region for anyone who’d be on their own. We’d meet each morning in our office and over a coffee, we’d discuss what challenges the day might bring and catch up on what’s happening in each other's lives outside of work too. It was a complex but rewarding project, made easier with plenty of laughs, jokes and Werther's Originals.
We didn’t know that the next challenging project we’d be working on was heading our way a few months later… except this time we’d be drinking coffee and crunching toffees over WhatsApp video calls in make-shift home offices across Bristol.
We’ve learnt that video calls work much better than voice calls - making eye contact makes a huge difference. In a conscious effort to connect in a meaningful way even as we isolate from each other, we always dedicate time for an informal catch-up.
As a loneliness charity, we’ve been keenly watching the increase in loneliness coverage in the news, with newspapers and media sharing articles on the topic daily. The issue of loneliness, however, is nothing new - research shows 9 million of us in the UK are lonely (that's more than the population of London).
Since the Covid-19 crisis began, a YouGov poll showed that 24% of us are already feeling more lonely. Coronavirus has swept the globe at a time when more people are living alone than ever before. And while loneliness and social isolation are not the same thing - loneliness is an absence of meaningful connection, whereas isolation is the absence of physical company - it’s more challenging to connect in a meaningful way when we’re forced to rely on technology.
We hope this spike in feelings of loneliness is temporary - we’re all experiencing a disruption in our normal routines. But psychologist Julianne Holt-Lunstad cautioned: “the danger is that people remain isolated after the risk dissipates.” Just as we’re all concerned about an economic recession, we should also be wary of a social recession - a continued pattern of distancing socially.
Even with more of us experiencing loneliness than ever, too many are ashamed to talk about it. In a study by the Red Cross, 60% of people admitted they didn’t feel confident talking about loneliness. A third more said they’d never admit to feeling lonely to anyone. At the Marmalade Trust, we know that simply talking about feeling lonely, like so many other emotions, really helps. We hope that the huge surge in conversation around loneliness will be just the thing to help us all through it. We want to break the stigma and encourage people to speak about it openly without embarrassment or fear of being judged.
While our physical office setup is different, our collective passion for supporting our Marmalade members remains - it’s the driving force behind everything we do. Having been catapulted into responding to an emergency situation it didn’t take long for our tiny team to come together and devise an action plan. We were on the phone to our members straight away to check in
on them and offer reassurance. Many are feeling vulnerable and more isolated than ever, and we’re now busy working to ensure they have the supplies and support they need. We’ll soon be linking members to volunteer telephone companions for weekly social calls. We’ve put together a pack of questions and prompts to help our volunteers foster meaningful connections over the phone too.
Amidst the challenges, we’d love to make this a time of renewed empathy, understanding and connection. Reach out to anyone you think might be feeling lonely. If you’re feeling lonely, share it with someone you trust. Focus on creating and sustaining meaningful connections. Whilst we might all feel far apart, we’re all in this together. #LetsTalkLoneliness
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