As Jo Cox Herself Said: 'Young Or Old, Loneliness Doesn't Discriminate'

06/11/2017 00:36 GMT | Updated 06/11/2017 09:26 GMT
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For as long as I could remember, I had looked forward to motherhood, and had expected to find it a period of love, joy and excitement. It was only when my son was 10 months old, and I was describing my feelings of despondency to my best friends that she said, "you're lonely". This was one of the reasons why I, along with my Parliamentary colleague Jo Cox, set up a national commission on loneliness, to highlight this issue of loneliness - an issue that has been ignored for too long, perhaps because those of us who have suffered from it are too embarrassed to talk about it.


Following Jo's murder, Rachel Reeves, MP, continued this work with me.


The adjustment from a full time job in a busy city to being alone with a baby in a small town was monumental. I only wish that I had anticipated the isolation which might come with motherhood, so that I could have taken steps to help myself. As it was, I didn't even recognise my symptoms, or that its cause was loneliness. In the end what helped me was identifying the cause of my loneliness, and tackling the problem by taking regular exercise and volunteering.


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 parents in the past week alone. 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, 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. Have a chat with that parent in the playground standing alone on the sidelines; make an effort to talk to 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 developing 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 - me as a new Mum, and 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