YP Comment: Loneliness - nine million reasons to act as hidden epidemic’s true toll revealed

The hand of friendship - nine million people suffer from loneliness according to new research.
The hand of friendship - nine million people suffer from loneliness according to new research.
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THERE is, at the very least, increased awareness about loneliness thanks to an award-winning campaign by this newspaper, with the support of others, which has shone a light on the many challenges – physical and psychological – facing the frail and vulnerable living a solitary existence. Indeed, Theresa May alluded to the significance of social isolation at Prime Minister’s Questions a fortnight ago.

Yet it’s not just the elderly who are struggling to come to terms, for whatever reason, with living alone. According to a hard-hitting report by the British Red Cross and Co-op, more than nine million adults of all ages – a number in excess of London’s population – suffer from various forms of loneliness. They range from the recently bereaved and newly divorced to new mums bringing up a young child with little or no family support.

With medical experts saying that the effects of loneliness can be as damaging to an individual’s health as smoking and obesity, it shows the invaluable service being performed by the Red Cross, and other charities like the Royal Voluntary Service, in providing support – both emotional and practical – to the lonely through inspirational and, frankly, indispensable befriending schemes so their wellbeing does not deteriorate and place the NHS under even greater strain.

Without people giving up so much time to help others, Britain’s care services would be facing an even greater crisis. Yet there’s still work to do, not least today’s claim by the charity Mind that local authorities spend less than one per cent of their public health budget on mental health and its effects. For, while there will always be individuals who are too proud to accept the hand of friendship, it should not stop all sections of society from official bodies to local residents making sure they are there for those people who have no one else to turn to at times of duress. There are now nine million reasons why more should be done by all to face up to this hidden epidemic – the hallmark of a civilised country, after all, is its response to such social challenges.

Brexit is leaving a sour taste

WITH the Government floundering over whether it falls to Parliament or the Cabinet to trigger Article 50, and with Theresa May attempting to buy off Commons rebels by promising to set out a Brexit strategy of sorts before she starts negotiating with her EU counterparts, it’s little wonder that the prevailing uncertainty is now encroaching upon day-to-day decision-making.

Take farming. It does make sense for Britain and EU to agree reciprocal arrangements which reflect the provenance of those truly distinct food specialities, like Wensleydale Cheese or French Camembert by way of example, so they are not undermined by those imitations which also fail the taste test.

The regret is that it will require political brinkmanship to ensure that the Protected Food Names scheme remains in place.

A foretaste of what it is to come when Mrs May, and Brexit Secretary David Davis, do finally get down to negotiations, it can only be hoped that there are healthy portions of common sense served in the coming months – or politicians from both Britain and the EU will be left eating large portions of humble pie.

Rather than the current stand-off between Britain and Brussels, officials should already be working tirelessly behind the scenes to establish those policy areas where there is consensus. If they do, both sides might be able to advance their objectives without leaving even more of a sour taste.

It’s just not cricket

SO long the gentleman’s game, how depressing that cricket has been dragged down to football’s dispiriting level when it comes to on-field behaviour and that umpires will, in future, have the power to show abusive players the red card for dissent.

It was not like this in Dickie Bird’s day when his own eccentricities, loved around the world, helped diffuse the most incendiary of situations. He did so because players, some more combustible in character than others, truly respected his decision and vice-versa when he raised his dreaded finger to dismiss a batsman.

The key word is ‘respect’. If clubs in the local leagues were more willing to have a quiet word with a player who overstepped the mark, and if the game’s international stars like Yorkshire’s very own Joe Root set a better example as role models rather than undermining the umpire by asking for so many decisions to be reviewed willy-nilly, cricket would not be facing an unsporting struggle for its heart and soul.