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Emotional Isolation: The U.K. Steps Forward Against Loneliness

On June 16th, 2016 in Birstall, West Yorkshire, Labour Party Parliament Member and Loneliness Awareness Advocate, Helen J. Cox, was stabbed and shot to death in broad daylight. This heinous act of violence was the result of the unchecked mental instability of far-right extremist, Thomas Mair– a local gardener in his fifties. Those close to Thomas Mair knew he had been plagued by mental illnesses in the past and he was recurrently labeled a ‘loner.’ He was a man that had very few friends and kept to himself. Tragically, it can be argued that with enough time, push from peers, and a desire to change internally, Mair may have benefited greatly from Mrs. Cox’s advocacy against loneliness that affected modern day citizens. Mrs. Cox was stated by her peers to have suffered from loneliness as well. Most notably, her sister Kim Leadbeater was quoted in Amelian Gentlemans’ Guardian article saying: “when she was a young mum, home alone with a baby, she felt very lonely. She would call and say: ‘I just need to have a conversation with an adult.’ When you experience something [by] yourself, it stays close to your heart.”

The Jo Cox Commission along with the newly appointed, ‘Minister of Loneliness’ have the intention of combatting the effects of loneliness and its prevalence within the country of Britain. The heartfelt notion behind these programs is worthy of applause and support. Poor mental/emotional health and its various effects on individuals suffering from it still remains a globally marginalized issue. In Japan alone, suicide remains the number one cause of death among citizens between ages 15-39. The country, to this day, still holds the second worst rating among the eight major industrialized nations as stated in Tomoko Otake’s Japan Times article. And in America, statistics have soared to their highest levels in nearly 30 years as reported by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. If there is one point that should be emphasized, it’s that the emotional well-being of citizens has failed to be a priority in well established societies.

The plan of action that Britain’s Minister of Loneliness, Tracey Crouch, seeks to implement involves the funding of efficient methods and groups to raise awareness and grant avenues for those suffering from emotional isolation. Additionally, the Jo Cox Commission has began coordinating with over a dozen charities to create new ways of treating the issue for those afflicted. The main focus for the team is to pull people together from all over, whether they be diplomat or denizen, and create a better emotional climate for everyone within their populus. And to add to each of their merit, they seek to honor the memory of Mrs. Cox and what she stood for regarding the issue. It is resolve built upon the best of intentions and although things have yet to begin, it’s fair to say that many other countries could learn from the efforts being made here.

Loneliness, much like many other emotional afflictions, requires the investment of effort in order to be mitigated, and needs to be given attention. In Ceylan Yenginsu’s New York Times article, she denotes the detriments by quoting Mark Robinson, chief officer of Age UK, Britain’s largest charity for older people. “It’s proven to be worse for health than smoking 15 cigarettes a day, but it can be overcome and needn’t be a factor in older people’s lives. It can be associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, depression and anxiety.” I, myself, was not aware of these effects and more likely than not, it’s not common knowledge among people. But with time and hard work, perhaps that can change.

While entertainment figures such as Stephen Colbert have lightly poked fun at the manner of action taken by Britain’s officials, folks will hopefully be able to recognize the merit behind the initiative. Instating a Minister for Loneliness may seem odd to some, but it’s positive action nonetheless. It serves a good cause and seeks to help people overall. In today’s age of social platforms like Facebook and Instagram, authentic connections between individuals is on a decline and will continue on this path until we address this issue. In Britain, 9 million of its country’s people suffer from the emotional affliction of loneliness as reported in Smithsonian magazine. It begs the question of how many cases of depression, anxiety, and/or suicide it will take for other countries to follow the U.K.’s steps towards a more emotionally aware and compassionate tomorrow.

Here’s to hoping. ❤