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COMMENT: Let’s make it okay to say ‘I am lonely’

Monday, 6th August, 2018 7:59am
COMMENT: Let’s make it okay to say ‘I am lonely’

PHOTO POSED/BIGSTOCK

COMMENT: Let’s make it okay to say ‘I am lonely’

PHOTO POSED/BIGSTOCK

Seán Moynihan, CEO of Alone

Don Smith came to Alone several years ago. He had worked in journalism and advertising, but despite being active all his life, Don was lonely. 

As Don told us: “Loneliness is what happens when you stop living your life to the full and become an observer. It can be brought on by retirement, sickness, bereavement or accident. The good news is that it can be overcome! A single phone call to a friendly voice can change your life.”

Alone is a national organisation that supports people to age at home. At Alone, we want everyone who has felt lonely to feel like they have support to overcome it, like Don does now. We want to make it okay to say ‘I am lonely’. 

This is why, when Senator Keith Swanick first came to us with the idea of creating a taskforce to tackle loneliness, I knew we should get involved. The Loneliness Taskforce was established to coordinate a response to the growing issue of loneliness in Ireland.

Recently we launched our report, ‘A Connected Island’, which made a set of five key recommendations for Government, State agencies and all policy makers.

Loneliness can affect your mental health, but it also affects your physical health. Older people experiencing high levels of loneliness are almost twice as likely to die within six years compared to those who are not lonely. Loneliness is not something to be brushed off – it is a public health issue, one that needs serious consideration.

We need the support and backing of Government, the HSE, NGOs, and other organisations to fight loneliness on a national level. We have recommended that €3 million in funding be provided annually to alleviate loneliness. We need research, campaigning and support for initiatives which address loneliness to be implemented now and for the future. I hope that this conversation will continue until these solutions are put into place.

There are lonely people in every village, town, and city across the country. Since 1977, tackling loneliness has been a central aspect of what we do in Alone but no one organisation can do this on their own. I hope that we can continue to work together and to implement real change so that Ireland can become A Connected Island.

For more details on Alone and the Loneliness Taskforce, see www.alone.ie.

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