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Challenging loneliness

VITAL ROLE: Helping those who are lonely is an invaluable service to provide

LAST WEEK, government minister Mims Davies declared loneliness to be one of the biggest health challenges faced by our country. Loneliness, people say, is a modern epidemic.

Most people have felt lonely at some point in their lives, but the shocking truth is that nine million people in the UK today admit to feeling lonely often or a lot of the time.

And, unfortunately, our latest report, published with our partner Co-op, suggests that people from black, ethnic minority backgrounds may be more likely to feel lonely.

But why is this? I’d like to start by saying that I feel really strongly that we should never label and box people into crude categories and act as though the experiences they face are all the same. But our research does show that people from BAME backgrounds face specific challenges which mean they could be more likely to experience loneliness.

PICTURED: Paul Amadi

For example, if you have experienced discrimination at work or in your local area, you’re twice as likely to feel lonely.

It also suggests non-white people face greater barriers to accessing the help they need when they do feel lonely. So a double blow.

There’s lots more to explore, but these insights from our research with the race equality think tank the Runnymede Trust and the Centre for Loneliness Studies are an important start.

But how do we combat this? A clear issue coming through from the research is that the more you feel you belong, the less likely you are to feel lonely.

This idea of belonging is a really powerful one, which I’ve reflected on in my own career. I believe individuals gravitate to where they feel most welcome.

If you’ve had a negative or racist experience in the past in your area, or at work, you become more wary. Maybe you decide against a certain profession.

Or you decide not to join a local group that could have helped you build some great friendships nearby.

We need to tackle this. We could do a whole lot more to make sure our institutions, workplaces, schools and services are more inclusive, diverse and welcoming to people of all backgrounds. This is something I personally feel is hugely important and I’m trying to play my role in the sector I work in – the charity sector. We also need to see investment.

The government thinks loneliness is a crucial issue, so we need to see a real commitment to spending on services and activities that combat loneliness and, as importantly, which build connections between people and their communities.

And these need to reach those most affected, irrespective of race, culture, geography or income.

Paul Amadi, chief supporter officer and executive sponsor for inclusion and diversity at the British Red Cross.

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