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The Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness: are you lonely? What would help?

(155 Posts)

MNHQ have commented on this thread.

RowanMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 07-Apr-17 11:26:50

Hello all,

Some of you may have heard of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness. The Commission was originally set up by the late Jo Cox MP alongside Seema Kennedy MP, and the aim was to have a cross-party parliamentary focus on the problem of loneliness in UK society.

After Jo's murder last June, Rachel Reeves MP has picked up Jo's baton (still with Seema Kennedy MP co-chairing), and the Commission was renamed in Jo's memory.

Over the course of 2017, the Commission is looking at loneliness among specific groups: older people, carers, people with disabilities, asylum seekers and refugees. And one of the groups they're looking at is new parents - which is where Mumsnet comes in.

We're working with Action for Children, which is the lead charity on the 'parents and young children' strand, to investigate loneliness within this group - and to try to think of things that we can all do to allay the effects of loneliness in this group.

So - with apologies for the long preamble! - here are some questions we'd love your thoughts on:

1) Do you feel lonely? If so, what do you think are the main causes of that?
2) If you have children, did you find that the transition to parenthood contributed to isolation or loneliness? If so, what sorts of forms does it take - and what effects does it have on you and your family?
3) If your children are old enough for the question to apply, do you think they suffer from loneliness? What are the factors, and how does it affect them?
4) What do you think can be done to help alleviate loneliness among new parents and children? If you've felt lonely, did you find an effective way to address it? Are there particular sorts of support you would find useful?
5) If you could ask people to do one thing to help tackle loneliness, what would it be?
6) If you are lonely as a parent, do you think it affects other adults in your family, such as your spouse/co-parent? If so, how? Do you think they are lonely?
7) And, if you've been lonely, are there any forms of support you really didn't like, or didn't find useful? Are there any approaches you think should be avoided?

Feel free to have a general ramble or bring up other points not referred to in the numbered list - we just want to hear your thoughts really.

We'll use your feedback to inform how we work with the Commission and to help shape the recommendations that the Commission will be making to the government at the end of 2017.

You can find out more about the Commission and the themes it will be addressing here, and you can take a personal pledge to start a conversation with someone here.

Thanks
MNHQ

Sansculottes Fri 07-Apr-17 12:09:46

Yes very as a new mum - I was very far from family and had no friends with dc close by. I also had a very high need baby so felt very scared of joining groups as he cried all the time.

I think a friendly open house would have been something I would have loved - something with the message that no one will be phased by anything including colic - we've seen it all.

ShatnersWig Fri 07-Apr-17 12:26:26

What about those of us who don't fall into one of those "specific groups" but are lonely? Don't they want to know about us as well?

I appreciate MN is working with Action for Children and will obviously have a specific focus, but what about other sections of society?

Foslady Fri 07-Apr-17 12:40:13

I was lonely as a new mum but I'm just as lonely as a single parent. All my friends are married so don't feel I can impinge on them, so even though dd is getting to an age where I can have a bit more freedom (teenager) I have no one to go out with. living rurally means little to do at night and I need to drive to get to out as the last bus is at 6:30!
I never thought my life would be as lonely as it is, but as I don't belong to a specific or at risk group (few single mums would put their lives at risk even if their thoughts are black) I get the feeling that we're the group that isn't important.
I've tried to join groups but their times haven't really fitted to when I'm free, even internet dating has been a disaster!
My life consists of either paid work, housework or bed. I don't consider it much if a life but don't know what to do anymore to sort it

RowanMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 07-Apr-17 12:45:34

ShatnersWig

What about those of us who don't fall into one of those "specific groups" but are lonely? Don't they want to know about us as well?

I appreciate MN is working with Action for Children and will obviously have a specific focus, but what about other sections of society?

Hi Shatners - please do join in and share your experiences if you'd like to. We can ask the Commission about why they've chosen to approach this topic thematically and why they've chosen those particular themes to highlight, but we're sure their intention isn't to deliberately exclude anyone.

helpimitchy Fri 07-Apr-17 12:46:37

I'm lonely because I'm autistic. I can't communicate effectively or act the way people want me to act. People have exploited me and abused me in the past, so I can't afford to have any social contact with anyone anymore.

It would help if there was some support and higher functioning autism groups to go to, but they're all either aimed at parents and children or people who are lower functioning.

My youngest son is autistic as well (hf) and he's lonely too because everyone bullies him and he's schooled at home now.

Dh is an introvert and possibly autistic as well.

We are The Lonely Family. It's very difficult for us to know what to do about it as we fall through all the gaps.

BillSykesDog Fri 07-Apr-17 12:49:48

I had twins in August and felt very isolated because I couldn't get out. I've had a student volunteer in from Homestart and it's made a very, very big difference to me.

I know that there are specific qualifiers for Homestart, multiples being one, but it would be nice to see it expanded or the same principles applied to other groups.

ShatnersWig Fri 07-Apr-17 12:54:56

Rowan I followed the link to their website to try and find out more but all the stats quoted relate to those same categories you list. There was a huge campaign last year with Age UK looking at loneliness in the elderly which is great, but loneliness is (which the Commission recognise) a major and serious issue. But it it is no respecter of "thematic groups". I know loads of people in their 30s and 40s who are single, like me, no children and lonely as hell, despite having friends and/or family. We don't fit into any of their criteria.

BillSykesDog Fri 07-Apr-17 13:09:59

I think Rowan makes a really good point. The groups listed are ones which already receive a great deal of attention. New parents already have a lot of support in terms of organisations like baby groups, home start, children's centres etc. The other groups are ones which also get a lot of attention and support.

It seems to be needlessly duplicating a lot of work whilst excluding the people who are least likely to currently have access to support with this sort of thing available.

RowanMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 07-Apr-17 13:25:43

Thanks Shatners and Bill. We will feed that back to the Commission and see if we can get a response for you. But in the meantime, we'd like to reiterate that we'd be very happy indeed for people who don't fit into any of the groups mentioned to use this thread to tell us about their experiences, and about what they think would help.

Thanks also to the others who have shared their thoughts so far.

CMOTDibbler Fri 07-Apr-17 14:14:01

I'm lonely. Not in the 'don't speak to anyone for days' way, but in the 'Dh is away this week, and from the time I finish work, my phone won't ring, there's no one I can call for a coffee, and no one ever calls me to suggest going out' way. No family beyond dh to support me (mum has dementia, dad is frail and needy).

When you are a new parent, its hard, but there's a zillion groups to go to, you're on mat leave so theres time to hang out. But I moved when ds was 14 months, I work FT, and its really, really, really hard to make friends then.

My dads lonely too - their friends fell away when mum got dementia, and he cares for her 24 hours a day. If you live with someone non verbal who is like a demanding toddler (for instance she turns all the lights off at 8pm and gets aggressive if he turns them back on, so he has to go to bed whether he wants to or not), you're pretty desperate for people to talk to - but his world is so small, he's not very attractive as a friend

chinaglass Fri 07-Apr-17 14:15:35

I'm a carer for my son who is autistic and I am also disabled with autism (amongst other things) as well. I am also a parent of a young baby.

I think I am not prone to loneliness, although I am quite isolated without much social contact. In my case I think it's because I don't feel as much need for social contact as other people - I always put that down to my autism but I see that a pp is autistic but does feel loneliness, so clearly there are other factors as well.

I think the transition to parenthood meant I wasn't able to socialise as much, or get out even when it wasn't to a social activity (e.g. shopping on my own). But then I moved closer to my parents, who did help with babysitting, so I'm glad I made choices to ensure I was less isolated. I think a lot of people are reluctant to move closer to family and that contributes to their isolation.

DS doesn't feel loneliness as he doesn't feel the need to seek out friends - this is due to the way his autism manifests. He is quite content with social contact through social media and just indulging in his own interests on his own.

I don't think it should be assumed that everyone who is isolated is lonely or they want to change that situation - I am being pushed into lots of social activity at the moment through my CMHT. I am attending the activities because I enjoy them (arts related) but I don't gain anything socially from it as I tend to keep to myself and as an autistic woman I am not particularly interested in forming social relationships. My GP and psychiatrist ask me about social interactions at every appointment, and it gets mentioned at my DS's annual reviews as well, so I do feel there is already a lot of monitoring of it for people in vulnerable groups. But to an extent I feel it is not really necessary in all cases, and it doesn't take into account individual needs.

Rainydayspending Fri 07-Apr-17 14:19:28

Yes I feel very lonely. I am a SAHM. I go to playgroups but everything is very much surface conversation only. I am not from the area I live, my neighbours are polite but busy. My family distant geographically and emotionally. My husband works away a lot, not from the area either. My days are all about sorting out children and the house. That's it, there's no nights out because there's noone to go with, occaisionally my husband's froends might come round in an evening (maybe three times a year). My only conversation in a day is with my children (10,9 & 1), the odd "Hi" at the school gates, at a shop or as I say surface chat (holidays, weather, schools) at playgroups. I have old friends who live far away - they don't really phone, they prefer text/ emails. I probably see those 2 close friends once a year each.
I can't go to clubs for my interests because my youngest isn't ready for childcare. Generally I also don't have the spare time.
For a while I visited a lady in sheltered housing. But she died and I felt (as a volunteer) a bit unwelcome and weird by the staff when I asked about anyone else wanting company. So i just stopped doing it. Before my youngest was born I also helped out with reading at the school (i'm trained as a teacher). They had me help in all sorts of ways, but when I got pregnant I had to take a day or two "off" then it was a holiday and I was never contacted (i didn't take it personally, there doesn't seem to be a member of staff keeping track of volunteers who might need to change class/ day etc).

Rainydayspending Fri 07-Apr-17 14:21:25

Ooos. What i think is that lots of places want volunteers but as a volunteer you have to be almost pushy. And then you feel akward and in the way. Maybe a volunteer programme/ charity/ public sector matchmaking service? I realise there are safeguarding issues but then there are anyway.

beetrootsalad Fri 07-Apr-17 14:28:57

I'm a sahm, I'm currently on my second mat leave but have decided not to go back to my previous job. I'm lonely as hell. Yes I have two kids, a dog and a house to look after. I have parents who don't live too far away and friends I could go out for coffee with but I still feel lonely. I need something to use my brain on, I'm not stupid but I can feel my brain cells disappearing with each episode of Topsy and Tim! For me, it's the feeling of Groundhog Day, not having anything to dedicate my remaining brain cells to and not feeling as if anyone is sharing this with me anymore. Before kids, when I was working me and my husband were sharing the same daily routine, we had more in common, now I feel like I'm living this life on my own, he helps yes but he has his own different routine.

GoldilocksAndTheThreePears Fri 07-Apr-17 14:29:08

I'm disabled and I'm crushingly lonely. I can go weeks without leaving my flat. I've accepted I'll never have a partner or kids, which crushes me. There have been months at a time where the only person I've spoken to is the occasional supermarket delivery person. I joined MN about 10 years ago as a nanny with plenty of nanny friends but since I became ill I don't have anyone. I've had a 'are you for real OP' on a thread now cos I literally have no where else to ask the small stuff people talk about day to day. I miss conversations, I miss volunteering, and working.

megletthesecond Fri 07-Apr-17 14:31:03

1) Do you feel lonely? If so, what do you think are the main causes of that?
Yes, very. Being a working LP (work is not a social place sadly). No time to meet people and no babysitters. I also have IBS so I need to make sure I take care of myself, it's vital that I keep working and paying the bills despite the toll it takes on my MH.

2) If you have children, did you find that the transition to parenthood contributed to isolation or loneliness? If so, what sorts of forms does it take - and what effects does it have on you and your family?
Not really. Maternity leave was quite social really. No rushing, seeing people at baby groups, time to chat in the street.

3) If your children are old enough for the question to apply, do you think they suffer from loneliness? What are the factors, and how does it affect them?
I don't think so. They have friends, play dates and parties.

Can't think of answers to the other questions I'm afraid.

TJDetweiler Fri 07-Apr-17 14:33:59

1) Do you feel lonely? If so, what do you think are the main causes of that? I do sometimes, less now than before though. I look after two young children full time and getting out of the house is hard. Even when I do get out there's no one to talk to really.
2) If you have children, did you find that the transition to parenthood contributed to isolation or loneliness? If so, what sorts of forms does it take - and what effects does it have on you and your family? Yes, it affected my mental health and my ability to be a good parent. It put my partner under pressure to support me and be my only company.
3) If your children are old enough for the question to apply, do you think they suffer from loneliness? What are the factors, and how does it affect them? N/A
4) What do you think can be done to help alleviate loneliness among new parents and children? If you've felt lonely, did you find an effective way to address it? Are there particular sorts of support you would find useful? I started going to more baby groups, got medication for anxiety and met a friend through an online app for mums to meet. The best support would be well run baby/toddler groups with people running them confident in stamping down on cliques.
5) If you could ask people to do one thing to help tackle loneliness, what would it be? Talk to the person on their own at baby groups.

LonelyNameChange Fri 07-Apr-17 14:41:24

I have autism and findind life unbearablely lonely for the last couple of years I've only talked to dh (also autistic) and just one word type thing hi/thanks/bye to supermarket assistants/dentists etc i don't have any friends to talk to in person, more austism support for adults would help, feels like when your over 18 all support from charities, health services etc just disappear, id been looking at a support dog to help me go places but all for under18s, social clubs for asd in my area all for under 18.
oh and people to not be so judgey, I really want to join some kind of group women's institute or even slimming world or anything just to meet people but I just struggle as people struggle to understand me and give me patiences so hermit life now! Also workplaces to be more understanding I think having a job would help me be more social but I work from home because I can't pass interviews as I will never be able to perform like a NT person would in an interview.

Basically what I think would help me get out more and maybe meet people and make me less lonley is more over 18 support and opportunities (this seems doable) more patience and understanding from workplaces and people in general (this seems impossible sad )

Loneliness17 Fri 07-Apr-17 15:00:40

Desperately lonely. I have a long history of chronic anxiety which means that things like meetup are impossible for me. The thought of walking into a room of strangers and making small talk is my idea of hell.

I also have low self-esteem which makes relationships very difficult. Like a PP, I've had to accept I'll never meet someone or have kids.

I have lots of acquaintances through work etc but haven't made any close friends since school / uni. I can easily go weeks without having a conversation other than in shops etc.

I'm 42 and the thought that this is my life for the next 30-40 years makes me want to curl up and die. No idea what would help - if I could think of something I'd try it!

MyGastIsFlabbered Fri 07-Apr-17 15:10:02

1) Do you feel lonely? If so, what do you think are the main causes of that?
Yes I am lonely. I'm a single parent who has just moved to a new village. I have MH problems and struggle to reach out.
2) If you have children, did you find that the transition to parenthood contributed to isolation or loneliness? If so, what sorts of forms does it take - and what effects does it have on you and your family?
When I was a new mum I think I went out a lot more, but I have found baby groups to be very cliquey. It was becoming a single parent that caused me to become a social outcast at the school gates almost overnight. And competitive parenting can be very off putting.
3) If your children are old enough for the question to apply, do you think they suffer from loneliness? What are the factors, and how does it affect them?
I think my 7 year old is lonely. He struggles to interact with his peers and rarely gets invited to parties, on play dates etc. He doesn't always notice it but I do worry about him.
4) What do you think can be done to help alleviate loneliness among new parents and children? If you've felt lonely, did you find an effective way to address it? Are there particular sorts of support you would find useful?
I think there should be more done at parent-baby groups to integrate, they can be horribly cliquey and it would be good if more could be done to mix up. But I guess the ones in the cliques would be resistant to that.
5) If you could ask people to do one thing to help tackle loneliness, what would it be?
Don't judge someone before talking to them.
6) If you are lonely as a parent, do you think it affects other adults in your family, such as your spouse/co-parent? If so, how? Do you think they are lonely?
N/A
7) And, if you've been lonely, are there any forms of support you really didn't like, or didn't find useful? Are there any approaches you think should be avoided?
I've kind of muddled through it by myself.

BillSykesDog Fri 07-Apr-17 15:11:30

One of the things I always notice is that this streaming of lonely people into boxes of 'lonely mothers'; 'lonely carers'; 'lonely disabled people'; 'lonely asylum seekers' - it actually seems to create more loneliness because you're isolating people who are already isolated by putting them into little boxes.

Someone above said she went to baby groups but then moved when her DC was 14 months so lost all of that. Others have mentioned they're overlooked because they don't fall into specific boxes. I think it would be a lot more helpful to look at ways lonely people in general can be bought together rather than treating it as something needing to be dealt with in specific silos.

One of the nicest things about my Homestart volunteer is that she's not another Mum. She's a student, she doesn't have her own kids so is interested in mine as a bit more of a novelty. She tells me about her friends and course and what she does at the weekend.

To be honest, I might well enjoy spending time with a childless woman in her 40s or a carer in their 60s or a disabled person in their 20s than I would with another Mum in her 30s.

I think it's something I would like to see addressed for communities as a whole rather than piecemeal.

user1487175389 Fri 07-Apr-17 15:17:10

What would help me? A return to communal child rearing and house work, rather than the isolation of the nuclear family. If that sounds in any way like I'm inviting politicians to reinvent the workhouse please just ignore my comment altogether.

brasty Fri 07-Apr-17 16:06:13

No I am not lonely. I am in my early 50s and have been surprised at the number of people I have spoken to my age, who are single and say they are very lonely. Generally people who work, but don't have much of a social life outside of work.

I have a chronic illness and have had months where I have seen no one except Drs and my DP. There does seem to be a lot of support for some types of chronic illness such as cancer and ME, but for others, there is nothing at all. I get lonely then, because I am too ill to go out and socialise normally.

se22mother Fri 07-Apr-17 16:28:33

As a single mother I feel lonely and isolated

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