Ending Loneliness Together has come together with R U OK? and the Australian Psychological Society to urge the Federal Government to implement a National Strategy to Address Loneliness and Social Isolation in Australia this May.
The movement to combat loneliness across industry, government, and academia in Australia is building. This April, Ending Loneliness Together was pleased to support the launch of the Parliamentary Friends of Ending Loneliness, led by Co-Chairs Dr Fiona Martin MP and Mr Andrew Giles MP, providing a necessary forum for MPs to meet and discuss the issue of loneliness as a major health and a social issue of our time.
Ending Loneliness Together Chair and Scientific Chair, Dr Michelle Lim, said that the collaboration with R U OK? and the Australian Psychological Society is a critical next step on the path to working at the national level to address loneliness in Australia.
“Loneliness is a critical issue of our time. The COVID-19 pandemic has placed a spotlight on loneliness and social isolation, and serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of meaningful social relationships for our health and well-being,” said Dr Lim.
“While 1 in 4 Australians report feeling lonely, the stigma of loneliness means that many more are uncomfortable talking about their feelings of social isolation and disconnection. Many people who feel lonely suffer in silence, driven by a fear of being unneeded or looking weak or vulnerable”.
“While addressing loneliness serves as a preventative strategy, people at the frontline may not readily recognise loneliness as a driver of other issues or may not be resourced to effectively assist”.
Katherine Newton, CEO of suicide prevention organisation R U OK?, said they support a national campaign to improve public understanding of loneliness.
“R U OK? is passionate about empowering those surrounding lonely people to listen genuinely and with an open mind when people express feelings of loneliness even when they may be surrounded by others,” said Ms Newton.
“We know that social connectedness and a sense of belonging are protective factors when it comes to suicide. For this reason, it is so important to raise awareness and reduce the negative impacts of loneliness and social isolation in our communities”.
The Australian Psychological Society CEO, Dr Zena Burgess, said that loneliness is detrimental to health and is a growing physical and mental health issue.
“Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, many Australians were struggling with social interactions and feeling socially isolated,” said Dr Burgess.
“Loneliness is a major concern for public health. We know that Australians with higher levels of loneliness have significantly worse physical and mental health. The Australian Psychological Society supports significant investment in this area, to support mental health practitioners in particular to identify, monitor and target loneliness in therapeutic treatment and support”.
Acknowledging the existing work of the Morrison Government to address loneliness and social isolation in Australia, Scientific Chair, Dr Michelle Lim said that significant investment in Australia is required to respond to this critical issue.
“A comprehensive national, coordinated plan to tackle loneliness and social isolation remains absent in Australia. We must work together – with people with first-hand experience of loneliness – to integrate a movement against loneliness in this country,” said Dr Lim.
“We must work together to destigmatise the experience of loneliness and empower individuals and groups to build meaningful social connections”.
The Joint 2021-22 Pre-Budget Submission requests the Morrison Government to address two additional gaps to deliver a more sustainable and effective response to loneliness in Australia:
- A lack of community awareness and skills on how to manage loneliness and social isolation, and
- The absence of uniform standards and guidelines within community and mental health systems.
Dr Michelle Lim