Why schools need to talk about loneliness

Since March 2020, all our lives have changed in ways that we could never have imagined. Every one of us has experienced anxiety, fear and, most likely, boredom.

But there’s one group whose lives have arguably been affected more than any other: children and young people. Routines and learning have been disrupted, and loneliness and mental health issues have come to the fore.

Yet, despite these pressures, we believe the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on young people is still underreported.

Research carried out by mental health charity YoungMinds has shown that 67 per cent of young people believe that the pandemic will have a “long-term negative effect” on their mental health.

There is hope, though, with 79 per cent of those surveyed reporting that they believe their mental health will improve as restrictions are eased and life returns to normal.

However, despite the increased pressures that many young people are experiencing, there has been no increase in the services available to support pupils.

Students reported a 23 per cent decrease in mental health support in their schools – though it is important to note that schools should not be expected to shoulder the blame for this, as the pressures of multiple lockdowns have had a significant role to play in how much support could realistically be offered in recent months.

What support can schools offer?

We know that the pressures on teachers are immense, which is why the Jo Cox Foundation’s Great Get Together and the Naz Legacy Foundation are working together to provide support for schools to address youth loneliness.

Our aim is to help schools put loneliness on the agenda and to ensure young people feel encouraged and enabled to discuss loneliness and social isolation.

To support this, we have designed the Let’s Talk About Loneliness and Young People assembly pack for primary and secondary schools across the UK. The aim of the resources is to address the specific issues young people are facing and to encourage them to share their experiences of loneliness.

While we recognise that this won’t solve the problem alone, opening up the conversation around loneliness is an important first step.

How can schools get involved?

You can sign up to receive a Let’s Talk About Loneliness and Young People assembly pack by registering here.

Resources are available for primary and secondary schools. The assembly pack will suggest that the assembly takes place on 18 June, the last day of Loneliness Awareness Week and the first day of the Great Get Together, our annual celebration of community.

However, the resources can be used at any time.

Reducing loneliness is an issue that the late Jo Cox was passionate about, and an area that both the Jo Cox Foundation and the Naz Legacy Foundation continue to champion.

We believe that the responsibility to confront the epidemic of youth loneliness sits with us all, and that we must work together to protect and enrich the mental health of our young people.

Sajidah Patel is the director of the Naz Legacy Foundation and Jo Atkins Potts is the campaigns manager at the Jo Cox Foundation



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