Things we can all do or not do to navigate loneliness

A constant focus of the Loneliness Connects Us project was was to explore ways of better understanding loneliness and practical strategies for young people to navigate experiences of loneliness.

Things we can all do or not do:  

  • Avoid the trap of thinking youth loneliness is a crisis or epidemic that affects all young people, be proportionate but aware 
  • Name and recognise loneliness among young people as a natural dimension to life and growing up – do not treat it as something to be ashamed or afraid of
  • Don’t automatically associate loneliness with depression and anxiety or other expressions of mental ill health, but recognise the possibility and be ready to offer or find the right support if it is needed
  • Recognise how change and transition may impact on a young person’s ability to connect and may lead to loneliness and support them through these changes 
  • Recognise how feeling different might create a sense of isolation and make an effort to think beyond your own experience and identity 
  • Recognise how poverty might impact on a young person’s ability to join in, take part and feel a sense of belonging and find ways of getting round it. Make things possible for everybody: don’t single people out 
  • Explore ways of thinking beyond the responsibility of individual young people to interpret and act in response to feeling loneliness, we need collective and societal change 
  • Recognise the additional pressures that social media can have on young people, but also recognise the positive relationships and connections that social media can offer 
  • Work to reduce the stigma of feeling lonely, normalise being alone and promote attitudes and experiences of solitude
  • Recognise how cultural influences might impact on young people’s expectations and behaviours and how groups that make belonging for one person might be making exclusion for others
  • Work with young people to expand and create new cultural artefacts, relationships, resources and repertoires of social practice and action 
  • Recognise how academic achievement and the competition for success can be shadowed by the loneliness and disappointment of failure and the fear of disappointing others who have invested in a young person’s potential success 
  • Recognise how difficult it may be for young people to acknowledge that they need help and or to articulate and ask for it: make it easier for them
  • Value and encourage the ways young people find of supporting themselves and one another: notice and learn from the ways young people find to support one another 
  • Value and resource parks and open spaces with opportunities for safe ways of being alone and opportunities for connection
  • Value and resource projects that make times and places for sharing interests, enthusiasms and many forms of creativity
  • Start the conversation and don’t give up on it, whilst creating opportunities for shared activities and interests where people can connect without talking, or at least before they start to talk 
  • Make and appreciate low-key offers of connection and companionship, especially at moments of difficulty or change 
  • Support the development of common spaces so all young people feel that they belong somewhere 
  • Build up the understanding of ‘friendship’ and what friends can do for and with one another; as well as what friends do not do if they are to remain our friend 
  • Try not to bottle things up 

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