There were many things I expected to feel when I became a Mum – tired mostly, elated definitely. What I wasn’t expecting to feel was lonely. Yet I can clearly remember that sense of isolation as I adjusted to my new life – in fact it’s one of the reasons why I, along with my Parliamentary colleague Jo Cox, set up the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, to highlight this issue of loneliness within our society that is becoming an epidemic.
Jo herself was very clear; ‘young or old, loneliness doesn’t discriminate’. That’s why the work that Action for Children is doing, as the Commission’s Charity Partner this month, is so important to me. New research from the charity shows that over half of parents have suffered from loneliness – a fifth of those in the past week. In a world where we are supposed to be ever more connected this is shocking – although it may be that social media, and the pressure that it brings to be perfect, is in part to blame.
As co-chair of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, alongside Rachel Reeves MP, we’re looking at what action local and national Government can take to combat loneliness. But the fact is that there’s something we can all do to tackle this problem – and that’s just to start a conversation. Say hello to that person you pass on the street every day on your commute or school run. Reach out to that parent in the playground who is stood alone on the sidelines. Make an effort to sit and chat with that Mum in your play group or toddler session. Start a conversation with the person sat next to you at the bus stop or on your train.
Society needs to realise that by tackling this we will also be helping to prevent the longer term mental and physical health issues that occur later in life as a result of chronic loneliness. By investing early in services where people can connect with each other – be that children’s centres, social support services or training for GP’s and other professionals – we can potentially stop loneliness and isolation in their tracks before it really starts to get a hold.
Jo and I began this conversation because we know the impact that being lonely can have on a person -myself as a new Mum, Jo when she was a university student. It blights people’s lives and ruins relationships but it could so easily be changed. Start your own conversation with someone today – who knows it could change their life for the better.
Seema Kennedy, MP is the Conservative MP for South Ribble and co-chair of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness. You can get involved, follow the campaign and find tips and more information here