Loneliness amongst young people is a growing issue of concern and the impact of it on the mental health of young people has been raised numerous times throughout the YCW National Action campaign, MIND! The Gap.
Research in April 2018, found that almost 10% of younger people, between the ages of 16-24 were “always” or often lonely, more than 3 times higher than people aged 65 and over.
In 2017/2018 the Childline charity for young people, delivered 4,636 counselling sessions on loneliness with young people. The youngest was 10 years old.
In Manchester, over the past 18 months there have been over 145 suicides by young people aged between 10-20 years old. In the UK, suicide is the leading cause of death in young people.
In light of this, the YCW put on some training for Adult Companions on this topic.
The session was run by Niell Watkins, a semi-retired psychologist, who has worked all his life in community education, project innovation and planning. He also has extensive experience in counselling, natural disaster relief projects and poverty alleviation projects.
Niell runs a programme called "Loneliness Connects Us All" and explores how our shared Christian faith can inspire us to do more to help alleviate loneliness.
From the very beginning in the Book of Genesis, God says: "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." And then as Jesus sent out his disciples, He reassures them that as they go out into the world, "I will be with you always, yes, even until the end of time".
The attendees shared some of their own thoughts and experiences of working with young people in the YCW and discussed how they can best use this training to support YCW and IMPACT Leaders.
Marc Besford, who organised the training session, welcomed the chance to raise this important issue. He said: "Since we started our National Campaign on young people and mental health, we have been overwhelmed by the response. Loneliness is certainly a major factor in harming our mental health and young people are telling us that not enough is being done to address it. Hopefully this eye-opening training session will help our adult companions support our young leaders and we thank Niell for his hard work and eloquence on this topic."