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The Loneliness Crisis Threatening Young People

Loneliness is the insidious pandemic looming over young people, with wide-reaching consequences, the UK government has plans to tackle the issue.

Credit: Jorm S / Shutterstock

Despite finally turning our back on the trials and tribulations of Covid-19, this is not the only pandemic we are currently fighting, especially among young people. Loneliness has become a large obstacle for people to tackle, with the rise of internet culture, societal requirements for a presence on social media, and the remnants of the impact of lockdown on young people in their formative years, our behaviour has become much more reclusive. 

Highlighting loneliness as a national (and global) crisis, the UK government has released a loneliness strategy to help combat this issue announcing that it will ‘drive awareness of the importance of social wellbeing and how we can encourage people to take action through easy-to-understand messages and information’. Their plan is to continue to build on their 2021 #LetsTalkLoneliness strategy where they collaborated with a large variety of platforms to develop their outreach. 

This year their campaign is titled ‘Better Health: Every Mind Matters’ to minimise the stigmatization surrounding loneliness and this year they are specifically focused on helping people ages 18-24, emphasising the key age bracket suffering with this issue. The loneliness pandemic within this age group, of course, can largely be traced back to social media. As we all turn inwards, you only have to look around on your daily commute, watching everyone glued to their devices to know that the overwhelming presence of the internet and its accessibility contributes largely to the loneliness pandemic. 

However, the duality of social media is that whilst it largely causes these issues, it also helps spread awareness. #Loneliness has acquired over 472.8 million views on TikTok, with people sharing advice, tips, and videos discussing own battles with loneliness, encouraging people to speak openly about their experiences. This was a significant help during lockdown periods as well.

 

Accounts such as @your_pocket_therapist are dedicated to helping people deal with their loneliness. The comment section becomes incredibly engaging as well with people asking ‘what can I do when I feel like this?’ or ‘How do I get over this?’. It also confronted a lot of users: ‘it got increasingly relatable with each point’, ‘okok but I’m kinda relieved to see that I’m not the only one who feels like this after reading the comments!’.

Although these movements help make noise and raise awareness, therapising and diagnosing people on TikTok has become a large concern for the app with users diagnosing themselves with conditions based upon widely circulating videos. Everydayhealth.com reported that ‘self-diagnosing mental health conditions like bipolar disorder is a growing (and risky) trend on TikTok…Young people are turning to TikTok to self-diagnose serious mental health conditions such as borderline personality disorder and ADHD’. 

Obviously, these are unsafe methods for arriving at a diagnosis and young people should consult a doctor first and foremost if they believe to be suffering with their mental health. 

However, despite these issues, as the above posters circulate around social media, the good thing that arises from this is the visualisation of the stats. ‘7 in 10 people know a friend who is lonely’, ‘1/4 Brits know a parent who is lonely’, ‘92% of us find it difficult to tell others they are lonely’, ‘8/10 of us feel judged negatively for feeling lonely’. Just to see these stats on paper is enough to highlight, not just the issue in young people, but the problem occurring across generations as well. 

What Can You Do To Help?

So what can we do moving forward? Engage with the conversation, talk about when we’re feeling lonely and why that might be. Talk to charities and organisations if you are suffering from loneliness, there are helplines ready and available. Bring up the topic in front of your friends and families, ask questions, and interrogate others’ experiences with loneliness. The only way to support each other is through conversation. Use Facetime and the internet to stay connected with people, but also don’t neglect the importance of face-to-face, in-person contact. 

 

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