How can we address the stigma attached to loneliness at Christmas?

New research found that one in four people are lonely at Christmas, but many are too embarrassed to ask for help

Traditionally, Christmas is a time of joy, sharing, and giving, and usually spent with the ones we love. But, of course, that’s not always the case for everyone.

In research from WhatsApp and the Jo Cox Foundation’s Connection Coalition, it was found that one in four people aged 18 to 34 feels lonely at Christmas, and yet a third are too embarrassed to admit it. The study, which was conducted as part of the #FaceOfLonliness campaign, shines a light on the way that loneliness is affecting the younger generations – a group not usually associated with feelings of isolation.

Of course, the pandemic has been a barrier to connecting with loved ones recently, and almost half of Brits are expecting to go another year without seeing friends and family at Christmas. That said, while most people (62%) would like to get a message from an old friend at Christmas, more than a third worry that it has been too long and that it will ‘seem weird’.

What these numbers tell us is that there are invisible barriers stopping us from connecting, and that these barriers can be self-enforced.

With their #FaceOfLoneliness campaign, WhatsApp and Connection Coalition are hoping to address this stigma, and encourage people across the UK to reconnect with their friends and families this Christmas – while also launching their Loneliness Advice chatbot.

“Jo Cox wanted to turbo-charge the public understanding of loneliness in the UK. In her name, the Foundation continues to champion the issue, encouraging people to talk more openly about their experiences of loneliness and, in doing so, reducing the stigma associated with it,” says Su Moore, CEO at The Jo Cox Foundation. “We know that, for some, feelings of loneliness can be amplified over the festive season. That’s why we’re delighted to be working with WhatsApp to provide access to support, help and advice from our Connection Coalition partners through the chatbot.”

“It can be difficult to identify who’s feeling lonely: from the person that feels alone at a crowded Christmas party, to the person far away from their friends and family and putting on a brave face, or the person keeping up appearances on social media while sitting lonely behind their phone. But, there’s no shame in sharing, so we’re encouraging people to pick up their phone and reconnect with a friend this December – you never know who might need it,” says Nick Grimshaw.

While technology often gets a bad rep, there’s no denying that in times like these, the ability to drop a quick message to the people in our lives can make all the difference. And, if you are experiencing loneliness or worried about others who appear to be struggling, you can simply WhatsApp “Hi” to 07902 922 908 to use the chatbot and access helpful advice and resources from organisations including the Marmalade Trust, Jo Cox Foundation, Age UK, The Mix, The British Red Cross, and #EveryMindMatters.

Need to speak to a professional? Connect with a counsellor using counselling-directory.org.uk

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