The ‘talking tables’ initiative that some big brand stores, such as Sainsburys and Costa, are pushing out to tackle loneliness are all well and good for the older generations but what about us baby millennial’s and Generation Y’s?
As someone that suffers with both loneliness and anxiety, if I’m feeling lonely the first thing I do is isolate myself and avoid talking to people in person as much as possible. It’s an ironic safety setting that would definitely stop me from using one of these well-thought of but not foolproof initiatives that the government is supporting to tackle the recent loneliness epidemic.
Loneliness is common within the elderly, AgeConcernUK and other welfare charities regularly report on this and the terrible lethargy that some people in their old age reach when they’re not getting the social interaction they need and deserve. However, loneliness is not just for those who’s children have flown the nest or who’s loved ones have sadly departed.
Where are the treatments and aids for the young suffering with loneliness and why are we not talking about it more?
As a twenty three year old who lives alone sometimes loneliness can be both exacerbated and helped by the world of social media, but much like a shot of vodka on a night out it only leaves a buzz for a little bit and then you either sober up or feel worse than ever.
Personally I would never go to the supermarket and sit in a coffee shop specifically to talk to staff members or charity volunteers, I wouldn’t know what to talk to them about? They’re strangers, they would be talking to me only because I was lonely and not because they actually wanted to tell me something or get to know me. As an anxious person I look at that scenario and dread it.
I do applaud the scheme though, and recommend that they keep it as I think it will help those that do use shopping in supermarkets as an excuse to talk to cashiers, fishmongers and general staff members just for some daily communication. But this kind of scheme is not a one-size fits all treatment.
The government has recently seen fit to try and tackle the loneliness epidemic, with GPs now offering classes and group activities as a potential treatment for mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety and loneliness. But, again, while these new schemes are fantastic for those that regularly use community centres, cafes and communal spaces, such as community gardens, where these group activities are held I don’t believe many 16-30 years old are in the group of regular users of such places.
Younger generations tend to gravitate to the more modern community areas such as shopping centres, online groups via social media and safe zones of comfort that fit their personalities. For example, I gravitate towards exhibitions and theatre as a place of community, but I tend to go alone. I don’t feel comfortable asking people to come with me to the theatre or shopping because these activities usually cost money and my generation, particularly in London, don’t have a lot of cash going spare. Being short of cash and confidence is quite common within 16-30 year olds, and this in turn is not considered in these new government schemes.
When I admitted to my loneliness and anxieties I was referred to a therapist and whilst my therapist was a fantastic listener and really helped me, this was only a ten week course of treatment which ended far sooner than I would have wished. I then had the option of paying for a counselor or no longer receiving this form of treatment, and as a broke millennial I couldn’t afford to pay someone to listen to me just to tackle my loneliness.
I looked elsewhere, developing my relationships again and pushing myself to experience more and get back out there. Yet, over time, my safety zone of stepping away was returning and I wanted to get back out there and make new friends to push the loneliness away.
How do you make friends in your twenties? It’s harder than people tell you at school, and everyone already seems to have a group of friends and aren’t looking for any more. This is where, you would think, a ‘talking tables’ initiative and prescribed clubs would help. You could meet like minded people or people that want to listen to you. But when you’re as cynical as I am, and brought up online on social media, it makes it even harder to believe that such humane and in-person schemes could truly work for the younger generations.
The government need to think more creatively and openly when it comes to tackling loneliness, remembering not to alienate those that are already lonely, but feel unable to use the schemes that they are creating.
Like illnesses, careers and foods there is more than one type of loneliness, and we need to consider the majority of them before prescribing the a singular course of action.