Good morning, Angels

Beating the summer time blues

Good morning Angels!” chirped Lance on joining the call. “You sound very lively today,” Edith observed of Lance.

It’s August, pouring with rain and peak holiday time. You’re in a longer than normal airport queue. Heading abroad to a central or southern Europe heatwave, or have arrived and find yourself on full forest fire alert. Maybe it’s time to pack your wellies and waterproofs ready to huddle together at a UK resort. More like “Good morning campers!” perhaps.

For Lance, Edith and their telephone group friends a staycation is the routine. Holidays are things that happen for others now. And summertime, just as much as Christmas holidays, can amplify feelings of loneliness, summertime blues. . . unless of course you meet up regularly with friends in your telephone group.

Having the privilege to be a guest facilitator for this group I found myself on an entertaining journey as members exchanged life experiences. We went from Guyana to Gamages, London Eye to the Lyons Tea House and had croissants watching the women’s Tour de France (“I didn’t know they had a ladies’ tour until it went past my window.”). The hour whizzed by, just like the cyclists.

Our holiday was virtual. All in the mind. Happy times conjured up by telephone group participants’ conversations sparking off so many connected memories. A sense of belonging created. The worth of peer supporting telephone communities, for me, richly affirmed.

In the happy knowledge that Lance, Edith and the others will have their volunteer facilitator, Shani, back with them again later this month, I’m off now to pack my tent. I’ll be pitching this, weather permitting, whilst on holiday in the Wye Valley,. The campsite’s river is rising and I’ve been told there’s limited telephone reception. But don’t worry, I’ll be encouraging fellow campers to store memories to share with friends in future years . . . to share in telephone groups of course.

Happy to chat? We are!

Our joint response with The Phone Co-op on launch of Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness.

The Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness launched last month taking forward the work she started before her tragic death.

Bringing together a cross party group of MPs with 13 charities including Royal Voluntary Service, Action for Children, Refugee Action and colleagues at The Co-op, the Commission will be shining a light on different aspects of loneliness and the positive steps we can all take to combat it.

Jo Cox put it perfectly: ‘Young or old, loneliness doesn’t discriminate… it is something many of us could easily help with.’

Loneliness can affect people of all ages, from the bullied school child, to the new mother, to the pensioner who has outlived her friends and immediate family.  Tackling loneliness requires us all to contribute.

As The Campaign to End Loneliness and now The Jo Cox Foundation are gathering momentum across government, charity and business sectors we wanted to pledge our support.

Working together Community Network and The Phone Co-op have been tackling loneliness, working in partnership specifically using telecoms, enabling lonely people to connect in groups by phone.

Robert Edmonds, Chief Executive Officer of Community Network added: “Combating loneliness is at the heart of the service that we are delivering in partnership with The Phone Co-op”.

We combine with The Phone Co-op to host our Talking Communities bringing together groups, over the phone, of up to six people and giving them opportunities to socialise and gain telephone friends.  If you are involved with one of our groups or are a charity or community group already using our teleconferencing for social purposes, please spread the word. If you want to find out more about how to get started get in contact.

We’ve now signed up to the Jo Cox Loneliness, Start a Conversation campaign. Loneliness is something that we can all help to combat, one conversation at a time.  We’ve pledged to be ‘Happy To Chat’.

Whether on the phone or face to face, let’s all join with the Jo Cox Loneliness, Start a Conversation, campaign. You can find out how to pledge your support here.

NOTES TO EDITORS

1 Community Network is a charity and social enterprise using telecoms for social benefit. Based from Archway, North London, it works across the UK to combat social isolation, loneliness and their devastating effects on health. Since 1989 it has been bringing socially isolated people together to build talking communities, telecoms enabled peer support. The groups are hosted by trained volunteers and help people to engage with others, build confidence, increase self-esteem and improve mental health and well-being. Community Network specialise in supporting charities and community groups in setting up and hosting talking communities, getting people together over the telephone. www.communitynetworkprojects.org

2 The Phone Co-op is a telecoms and internet service provider based in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire and in Manchester. It is a consumer co-operative, owned by its members, who are its customers. It provides products and services (phone, mobile and broadband as well as business data services) to residential and business customers throughout the UK. It also provides teleconferencing facilities for charities, not for profit organisations and other co-operatives. Driven by its members, it has a strong focus on ethics, both social and environmental. The Phone Co-op has over 30,000 business and residential customers, over 70 employees and more than 11,700 members. It started trading in 1998 and has grown steadily since then and now has a turnover of over £12.5 million. www.thephone.coop

 

Online peer support for people experiencing loneliness this Christmas

This winter, the idea that hundreds of thousands of people, particularly the elderly will be affected by loneliness is getting a lot of media coverage. Rightly so; this is an issue that isn’t going away, nor will it disappear when we pack up the Christmas decorations and get back to day to day life. Loneliness can affect people at any age and any time and we need solutions throughout the year.

We are regularly asked for help by people under the age of 60. Requests come from those who are chronically lonely. They don’t have someone to talk to in the middle of the night, nor do they fall into a group for which there is an obvious form of support. They are not old or ill. They are simply lonely and unable to find the help they are seeking.

One of the things we have learnt through years supporting people out of loneliness is that human contact makes a real difference to those struggling to feel part of the world. Peer support, or people helping each other is one of the most effective means of enabling meaningful connections to be made between individuals and groups.

This week we are launching The Loneliness Forum, an online discussion group for adults at risk of, or experiencing loneliness to come together, share experiences and find ways of supporting each other. The Forum, a safe space for anyone 18+ will be moderated by friendly Community Guides who are there to make everyone feel welcome.

Christmas and New Year is a time when people feel lonelier and so we are launching this forum this month. If you are feeling lonely over the holidays, whether you are on your own or with family and friends, drop by the forum, say hello and share with like minded people.

Join the Loneliness Forum here.

What can we do about loneliness?

Loneliness is something that everyone experiences at some point in their lives. It can be fleeting and easy to shake off but for far too many people, loneliness becomes part of everyday life.

There is no magic wand to wave when feeling lonely but there are things you can try to help you feel more connected to others.

Here are some ideas that have worked for other people. We’d also love to hear from you about what has helped you when you are feeling lonely.

You are not alone in feeling lonely

We don’t talk much about loneliness but it is experienced by many people of all ages everyday. Figures tend to focus on older people with 1 in 10 feeling lonely all or most of the time but loneliness can come at anytime during life and be triggered by lots of different things. It can be difficult to remember that other people feel the way you do and many people who have felt lonely in the past will be able to understand how you are feeling.

Take smalls steps

If you are feeling very lonely it might feel difficult to expand your circle of friends. Start with people you are closest to such as family or old friends. Having a chat on the phone, meeting for coffee or just exchanging some messages online can make a big difference.

Saying hello

We live in an increasingly busy world where often we don’t have time to connect with those around us. Simple things like saying hello to neighbours, talking to people in shops, delivery people or chatting to acquaintances can help to give you a sense of others around you. For example, someone we spoke to lately said that just talking to people in queue for the doctors’ surgery had helped them to feel a sense of belonging.

Connecting with new people

Loneliness is a tricky thing. Sometimes we can be surround by others and still feel very lonely. Often this is because we feel disconnected from those around us. Meeting new people can help you to overcome feelings of loneliness. This may seem big and scary so start off by thinking about the things that you like to do, the values you hold and the things you like to speak about. For example, if you have an interest in local history or singing, politics etc. find out what’s available in your area. Meet up groups are also a great way to find people with similar interests who welcome new members.

Helping others

When you are at a low ebb helping others might be furthest from your mind but there’s a lot of research that shows that it can help to increase your confidence and make you feel valued again. Volunteering is a fantastic way of meeting new people and you can choose how much of your time to give.

Connecting online

The Internet can, for many be a source of staying in touch and meeting new people. There are lots of different social networking sites connecting up people and forums where you can share experiences, opinions and talk online to others about things that matter to you.

Whilst the Internet can be really helpful for lots of people, please remember to stay safe online. If you are on a public forum don’t give your personal details to anyone and if feel something is unsafe then look on the website for an email address to report it to. Most social networks and forums have someone you can raise concerns with.

Telephone Communities

For people who don’t have access to the Internet or choose not to connect with people online, Community Network’s Telephone Communities are a good way to safely talk to others. We using teleconferencing technology to let people chat together in a group telephone call. All group members need is access to a telephone, landline or mobile and there is always a trained facilitator on hand to make it easy for everyone to talk together on the phone.

Enjoying spending time alone

If you are someone who is used to having lots of people around you and are suddenly spending a lot of time alone this may lead to you feeling lonely. There can be lots of positive things about spending time on your own. It can allow you to pursue hobbies or do things you’ve always fancied and give you time to enjoy things you might otherwise not get a chance to do.

Peer support

Often people experience loneliness and feel alienated from others because of something that is happening in their lives such as managing a physical or mental health condition. There are many groups who about people in such circumstances helping each other. This is sometimes called peer support.

Other sources of help

Sometimes feeling lonely can cause you to become depressed. Being depressed can also make you feel lonely. If you are feeling depressed it is a good idea to visit your GP who can talk through what you are experiencing and the best way forward.

If you are experiencing distress, despair, feel you are not coping or having suicidal thoughts you can contact Samaritans on 08457 909090 or by emailing jo@samaritans.org

Useful Links

Mind, the mental health charity www.mind.org.uk

Elefriends, supportive online community from Mind www.elefriends.org.uk

Samaritans www.samaritans.org

Childline, support for children & young people www.childline.org.uk

The Silver Line Helpline, for older people www.thesilverline.org.uk

Do-it, volunteering opportunities www.do-it.org.uk

Meet up, website advertising events and activities for like minded people www.meetup.com