We’re proud to feature Rachel Cunningham as our guest blogger!
My name is Rachel Cunningham, I am 35 years of age and I work in homeless services in Dublin. The issue of loneliness props up so regularly in work I became really interested in it.
As I delved into it, I realised it was all around us, and for the most part accompanied with stigma and subsequent feelings of shame. I wanted to see what it looked like within my friends and extended social group, so I set up a survey called ‘How are you?’ it had 3 short questions.
- What does the term loneliness mean to you?
- Have you ever felt lonely?
- Today, is there anyone you are concerned about (this could be someone you know directly or just someone you are aware of).
I asked everyone to be as open as they liked as it was done via Survey Monkey so therefore anonymous. The response was incredible, so many long detailed and emotionally charged responses. It was weirdly comforting to know that so many people shared similar experiences to me (experiences that I never felt comfortable to share) in total 350 people took part in my survey.
I feel the biggest issue around loneliness is that we forget about it when we are not actually in it. This seemed strange to me seeing as so many (97%) of people responded ‘Yes’ to question 2 in my survey. I genuinely feel that if there was just a small shift in the way we think about loneliness, it could prompt us to reach out to people more often, and equally encourage us to reach out when we need support ourselves.
I figured if I could encourage 350 people to stop and really think about loneliness with 3 short questions, is there a way to prompt this thinking regularly? So, I set up a mailing list and asked people to join. Each week I pull either a theme from the survey, interesting articles I found or just my own experiences and discuss it in an honest, vulnerable and subjective way, I avoid where possible giving advice, I will share what works for me but I don’t believe that one size fits all.
The response has been so incredibly supportive and positive, so many people get in touch each week when a topic strikes a chord with them. I have been sending the emails since October 2019 and I do believe it has encouraged a lot of people to stop in their busy lives and consider loneliness, just a small little prompt that pops up each week. Even if some people do not open them but simply seeing it pop up reminds them of someone they want to check in with, then that is good enough for me!
I have also set up a blog called Letstalkaboutloneliness.com and each week I post up my email content, this is an easy way for people to share my posts. I am always open to suggestions for topics each week and anyone is free to join the mailing list. Please pop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org If you would like to be added to the list.
At Marmalade Trust, we’re all about encouraging open, honest conversations about loneliness, and empowering everyone to build on their understanding. We think Rachel’s website and email campaigns are a great way to start meaningful conversations and encourage more and more people to talk about loneliness. Well done Rachel!