Nicola Furbisher: Loneliness and the stories behind the statistics

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HOW to define loneliness? The housebound elderly widow? The struggling single mum? The carer so busy caring that they’ve forgotten the need to care for themselves?

How to spot it? It could be a relative, a next door neighbour, a colleague sitting at the desk next to you... but who puts their hands up and admits they are lonely?

Recently The Yorkshire Post launched a campaign: “Loneliness – The Hidden Epidemic”, joining forces with national organisation the Campaign to End Loneliness to give a higher profile to this important issue; one which is blighting lives across the entire spectrum of our society.

How ironic that the faster the pace of life and the busier people become, the more we isolate those around us. Neighbour barely knows neighbour, families are increasingly scattered, the working week is longer...

Our campaign has three objectives: to encourage health authorities to write loneliness into their future strategies, to encourage everyone to be more community-minded, and to get people talking about how to solve a clearly growing problem.

On April 8, the campaign took a huge step forward with a summit held in Leeds, organised by the Campaign to End Loneliness and chaired by The Yorkshire Post.

Almost 100 people attended. One after another, they talked about the impact of loneliness on lives, families, communities. Time again we heard the figure: 91,300 older people living in the Yorkshire and the Humber region describe themselves as feeling lonely often, or all of the time. One GP spoke of a list of patients he visits routinely once a month – not because they are ill, but because they have no one else in the world who visits them.

We believe stories work better than statistics... and if you have your own to share, do contact Lindsay Pantry, The Yorkshire Post reporter who is co-ordinating this campaign. You’ll find her at lindsay.pantry@jpress.co.uk.

I’m grateful to those who took the trouble to get in touch following the recent relaunch of The Yorkshire Post. While in the main the comments were extremely positive, we did ask what you didn’t like too.

A number of you contacted us suggesting that the design of the weekend walk in Country Week was not a change for the better.

Neville Oughtibridge summed up the comments: “I was bitterly disappointed to find that the format had changed. Many walkers like myself cut the article out and laminate it. In that 
way we can take it out in all weathers without it becoming soggy and unreadable. Can you please revert to the original format?”

No doubt about it, he and others were right... and we very quickly changed the design. We can’t promise that every complaint will bring the same results – but as I’ve said before, we are listening.

Brian Sheridan wrote to challenge us on the amount of world news in the paper. Not enough, he said. “Yorkshire’s National Newspaper must devote more than a page to it; especially in the event of such important stories as the Ukrainian crisis and the disturbing disappearance of an airliner.”

He’s right, we do dedicate one page each day to world news – although this sometimes expands depending on the space available and the news stories running at the time. The Ukrainian crisis and the disappearance of the airliner are worthy of significant coverage and both have featured on the front page. It’s about finding the right balance of regional, national and international news – and it’s something we assess throughout the day and at our morning and afternoon news conferences.

Ian Barnes, of York, said he thought the redesign had “made an already first class newspaper even better” but claimed we were “treating Hull City Football Club like a poor relation against other Yorkshire teams”. On this we beg to differ, Mr Barnes.

The day we lead with Sheffield Wednesday or Sheffield United is the day we upset fans from Leeds or Bradford. The day we lead on Leeds is the day we get letters and calls from unhappy people in Sheffield. However, I can point out that Hull have had the most coverage of ANY Yorkshire team this season plus more front pages of Sports Weekend and Sports Monday. And as for the day after semi-final cup day... page one pictures don’t get much bigger!

Finally, a word of thanks to Sarah Poulter whose daughter was recently photographed at Beningbrough Hall by our photographer James Hardisty. “I have never witnessed such professionalism,” Sarah writes. “He showed a caring manner towards my daughter and such a professional approach to achieving the best photograph possible.”

Our reporters and photographers are the true ambassadors of the paper. Praise like this makes us very proud of them. I continue to look forward to your views... contact me at nicola.furbisher@jpress.co.uk or via Twitter @NicolaFurbisher.

Nicola Furbisher is managing editor of The Yorkshire Post.