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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Thresa May appoints a Minister for loneliness

How much do you relish travelling by Railways ~ and would that change in any way, if you are to be denied the ‘window’ seat ?  .. .. fortunately unlike air travel, passengers not on window seat too can have unrestrained view from out of the window.  Almost 3 decades ago, when I boarded a train (travelling on transfer) many of my friends came to the Central Railway Station to see me off, that is etched in my memory.  Those days, it was a tradition to ‘see people off’ and ‘receive people’ coming from other places.  Remember that in my +2 ‘Advanced English” lesson, there was a story on a woman who hires a man to give a send-off [professional in seeing people off] at a Railway station.  Gone are those days !!!

How much do you love being lonely ! – may be for a shortwhile !! in modern World of Facebook,   ‘solitude may be fine only to tell others with a post that you alone and enjoying it !’.   though there could be people alone at the top, survey often tells that our need to connect is innate, to have an understanding life-partner is bliss and isolation can have a potent detrimental effect on one’s mental and physical health.  Some say that even fish suffer when they are along and there are society fish that enjoy flocking or schooling together. 

The news is :  Britain appointed a "minister for loneliness" on Wednesday to tackle what Prime Minister Theresa May described as "the sad reality of modern life" affecting millions of people. Tracey Crouch, a junior minister for sport and civil society, will take on the role as part of a broader strategy to combat loneliness in Britain. "For far too many people, loneliness is the sad reality of modern life," May said.

"I want to confront this challenge for our society and for all of us to take action to address the loneliness endured by the elderly, by carers, by those who have lost loved ones — people who have no one to talk to or share their thoughts and experiences with," the prime minister added. More than nine million people say they are always or often lonely, out of a population of 65.6 million, according to the British Red Cross. It  describes loneliness and isolation as a "hidden epidemic" affecting people across all ages at various moments in their life, such as retirement, bereavement or separation. The ministerial appointment follows a recommendation from a committee in memory of Jo Cox, a lawmaker for the opposition Labour party who was murdered by a far-right extremist.

"Jo experienced and witnessed loneliness throughout her life especially as a new student at Cambridge University and separated from her sister Kim for (the) first time," the Jo Cox Foundation wrote on Twitter. "She would be delighted by Tracey Crouch's new job as minister for loneliness and would be saying 'let's get to work!'" the Foundation added. The prime minister was to host a reception on Wednesday to celebrate the legacy left by Cox, whose killing just days ahead of the 2016 Brexit referendum shocked the nation.

Britain's loneliness initiative will see a strategy published later this year, with input from national and local government, public services, the voluntary sector and businesses. So, the  first ‘minister for loneliness’ has just been appointed to tackle a problem that seems more common by the day.

One of them is reported talking  in a way that makes you want him to keep talking. His warm humour immediately puts you at ease, which makes it difficult to process what he is describing: a period in his late 20s, about two decades ago, when loneliness felt so engulfing he could barely speak. He craved the company of friends, but when they visited, he gave them cold cups of tea to make them leave. “I’d be at home absolutely desperate to see somebody, but then all I wanted was for them to get out. I’d try to get rid of them as soon as I could by not talking to them, being rude, the cold-cup-of-tea tactic – all the while knowing that was not the thing that I wanted,” he says.

This is how scientists identify lonely monkeys – they don’t look for the monkey pottering around contentedly by himself; they look for the monkey that hesitantly approaches the crowd then steps back, that makes overtures to groom another, then timidly pulls away.  In UK one recent study found that more than nine million adults in the UK are either always or often lonely.

A loaner is reported as stating  ~  :  the first two weeks in that bedsit were bliss, but it did not last. He quickly grew isolated, paranoid and agoraphobic, unable even to pick up the phone to tell the landlord his toilet was broken. Antidepressants didn’t help, but after 18 months he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from his time in the squat, and a course of cognitive behavioural therapy enabled him to leave the flat for occasional temp work. He was surviving, but not living: “I did well at all the jobs, but I had no chance with the people. I was in a state close to panic whenever I had to talk to others. I felt I’d lost touch with my old friends, even the ones who were always a lifeline, because they had so much else to do. I managed to get all my worries down to just one: loneliness. I felt hopeless and resigned myself to living the rest of my life this way.” But after three or four years of serving visitors cold tea and not turning up to friends’ weddings, something shifted. He tried to achieve one small thing every day – even just getting out of the house to buy a pint of milk. “I read lots of self-help pages on the internet with glib metaphors, likening your life to a tree, but there came a point where I just said, well, I’m not a tree, and this is absolutely no use to anybody,” he says. “I thought, soon the invitations are going to stop coming, and the only way I am going to become the social person I used to be is to actually be social.”

He made a life-changing decision: he would say yes to everything. “It was horrible to start with, especially the garden parties for their kids’ birthdays – I’d think, what am I gonna do? Look at the state of me – I’m a socially incapable freak. I was terrified. But I’d force myself to go. I was the weird guy sitting in the corner making eye contact with nobody. But I stuck with it because I knew that nothing would change without it. It was a slow and painful process, but each time it got a little bit easier,” he says. Within a couple of years, Steve felt human again.

In UK, 360,000 people aged 65 and over have not had a conversation with friends or family for a week.  If one were to look at loneliness, then at sense of purpose in life, and  horse-raced them against one another and asked, if you get a person who is high in both, which one wins? Happily, it looks – at least in that particular analysis, subject to caveats – that you can be socially isolated and disconnected, but if you feel you’re on a mission, that trumps social poverty.”

Lonely people don’t choose to be lonely; they’re often lonely as a defensive measure against a world that they perceive to be threatening and hostile.  If one has lost the confidence of being with people, it would be too difficult to reconnect.  May be pets could be of some help, but more than fish or dog, it is fellow- humans who could turn around.  In Indian culture, there were days when everyone helped each other, the Western World ridiculed it stating ‘lack of privacy’ ~ yearn for those days, when your co-tenant, neighbour would take care of your children, share their food and place too – now a days, people living in flats do not even know their neighbour and most doors remain shut, keeping visitors out and more importantly denying themselves opportunity to mingle with people.  Things have to change !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
18th Jan 2018.

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