For decades I didn't feel like I belonged anywhere. As far back as I can remember, it was difficult to "fit in". My mother was always saying "Why can't you be more like this person or that person?" I wondered that, too. I tried as hard as I could but somehow, it just didn't quite work. I didn't think like other people. And I was often misunderstood.
Through social media ,making friends and meeting new people has never been easier. Yes, critics cry boo at my generation tweeting and posting while we could be having real human interaction, but it is a great way for us outsiders to become part of an exciting online community and give us a sense of belonging, something all of us ultimately crave.
People with cerebral palsy can remember when SCOPE was called The Spastic Society. Now we have a culture where political correctness has overtaken and one cannot use the term 'disabled' or 'mentally handicapped' or even 'handicapped'; instead we have to use the terms 'less-abled' or 'learning difficulties'. Is this really required
For many guests the happy occasions of spending one afternoon per month having tea with a group of older guests and volunteers, are the only cross on the calendar. Contact the Elderly would like to draw public attention to what complete isolation feels like and what people can do to help solve the problem.
Reading and hearing reports in the media each day, it is impossible to deny that there is increased awareness of the issue of loneliness and isolation in older people in the UK. Since I founded the charity 49 years ago, Contact the Elderly has been actively involved in combating loneliness, providing over a million face-to-face friendship links via our monthly tea parties
Indeed, love probably means as many different things as there are people - from the unselfish care of a Mother Teresa to the heart-pounding passion of star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet. Yet with Valentine's Day upon us it's the romantic variety tugging at our heartstrings, especially if we lack that special someone to share it with.
The conventional image of loneliness or isolation, particularly at Christmas, is of an older person living on their own. But families can feel intensely isolated too. Everyone needs support from time to time, and when that support is absent and people feel they have no-one to turn to, it can have a significant impact on an individual's health and well-being and can damage families.
Today there are 800 million people aged 60 and over, all with an increased life expectancy, so, it shouldn't come as a shock to learn that soon there will be more older people on the planet than any other age group. Hence why understanding and improving the mental health of this generation is of significant importance to all of us.
I found that the student lifestyle itself was actually pretty good for creating conditions in which depression can flourish, particularly in terms of alcohol. Students are notorious for their high levels of alcohol consumption and lots of society activities revolve around drinking, particularly in sports clubs. Alcohol is a well-known depressant and can have a significant impact on your mood.
When we think about our wellbeing, we think of avoiding major diseases, being financially comfortable, enjoying our daily lives and achieving our goals. Often we never stop to consider those invisible yet vital qualities of support, understanding and love that are provided by the people we keep close to us.
One in four people newly diagnosed with cancer in the UK will lack support from family or friends during their treatment and recovery - that's more than an estimated 70,000 people every year not getting help at a time when they need it more than ever. Of those, around a third - an estimated 20,000 people each year - will receive no support whatsoever, facing cancer completely alone.
Being a parent is hard. In fact, let's just be honest about it, it's really hard sometimes. We often don't admit it, except to our closest friends and family, but it's probably the most challenging part of our lives. A recent survey by the NSPCC reported that in the first eight weeks after birth around three in five mothers felt isolated with no one to turn to, and two in five mothers even admitted to 'getting angry' with their baby. And this is before they've even started walking and talking!
Recent predictions from the Office of National Statistics suggest that one in three babies born today will live to 100 and beyond. Bearing in mind our ageing population, we've been doing quite a lot of work over the past five years to think about how we can enable us all to live our lives the way we want to, where we want to.