Loneliness Awareness Week takes place from 14-18 June and is a campaign to get more people talking about the subject. Loneliness among children and young people under the age of 18 has increased sharply during the pandemic with lockdown measures meaning that many children were spending long periods away from friends, teachers and families at a time when developing social relationships is particularly important. To help tackle the stigma around talking about loneliness, our Volunteer Dave answers Wigan Youth Zone members’ questions on the topic.
- Introduce yourself, name, volunteer role and how long you have been volunteering at Wigan Youth Zone
I’m Dave Carter and I started volunteering in the drama department at Wigan Youth Zone in early 2017, as my work placement whilst completing my 3rd year of a BA (Hons) degree in Performing Arts at the University of Bolton.
- Tell us a bit about your experiences working at Wigan Youth Zone as a Volunteer
As a volunteer I work with staff, juniors and seniors to help create and present musical theatre shows, written in collaboration with the youngsters. Witnessing their talent and hard work in rehearsals, and their performing arts development and personal growth is an absolute joy. Over the years I have also assisted on one-off events and activities, open days, the dance festival, fund raising events, the year we hosted the national Youth Zone competition, and the year we attended Wigan Pride, both walking in the parade and performing a short relevant scene the youngsters had devised, with our help, of course.
- What is your favourite WYZ memory?
My favourite memories are the opening nights to the shows, the arrival of the audience, the young actors back stage, the fruition of months of hard work and dedication on the part of the youngsters and the manic final week spent bringing it all together.
- Would you recommend volunteering at WYZ to others if so and why?
I would thoroughly recommend volunteering at ‘the Zone’, in whatever area your expertise or interest lies in, whether it be sport, music, art, enterprise or the social aspect, helping the youngsters achieve their goals and, in my experience, learning and growing yourself in the process, in a very supportive and fun environment. Having to forego my attendance at the Zone during the Covid-19 lockdowns for over a year was one of the major things I missed in my life at this difficult time and I’m certainly pleased to be back.
- What does volunteering mean to you?
Volunteering to me is about serving and supporting the youngsters, who always manage to keep me feeling young again (I’m now a pensioner) and, of course, it’s always fun!
- How would you define loneliness?
To me loneliness is not about being alone, you can be lonely in any situation, but rather the experience of not being seen or heard and having no support in being who you are.
- What impact did the Coronavirus Pandemic have on your mental wellbeing the feeling of loneliness?
The first main issue with the corona virus for me was just survival – I’d not long come out of hospital after a life changing heart failure, live on my own with no support network and initially struggled to arrange the basic food and provisions for home delivery. Having lived on my own for many years I did already have extensive experience of being happy with my own company, though it was still hard to not go stir crazy, spending fourteen months at home, not going into a shop, not going into town, meeting only delivery drivers and healthcare professionals on routine visits to the hospital and doctors surgery. What kept me going was the knowledge that it was not forever, that there would be a time when I could get back to meeting with others and, crucially, that there were and are others to meet up with.
- Who do you go to when you feel alone?
Regular conversations with my sister in Norfolk every couple of days has meant that one positive effect of the pandemic is that we are closer and know more of each other’s daily lives and concerns.
- What helps you get out of a lonely state?
One other aspect is that it’s important, in my view, to have interests and hobbies to engage in – every day getting up with something to look forward to and do. For me getting up early, looking after my health and well-being and having a choice of activities to engage in is essential to maintaining mental health – in my experience physical and mental health are intimately linked.
- Do you feel lonely right now?
On a daily basis I rarely, if ever, feel lonely and I think this is because I know there are conversations to be looked forward to, and people to meet up with. Put simply I have things to look forward to.
- If you could advise other young people who are feeling isolated or lonely, what would you advise based off your own experiences?
Looking back to my youth the loneliest periods were when I either had no-one to talk to, or chose not to. In my experience if you are feeling isolated and lonely it is important that you are honest with yourself about this, and actively look for someone safe to talk to, and be open and honest with them. The worst thing you can do is shut yourself off from everyone and from life and not give anyone the opportunity to help you.
Wigan Youth Zone is committed to helping tackle the battle of loneliness with young people by offering young people somewhere to go, something to do and some to talk to every day – we know that as a result of attending the Youth Zone that 74.5% of our members fell a reduction of loneliness.
It is hoped that with the continuation of such initiatives like the ones above, we will continue to give back to the wider Wigan and Leigh communities. To support the work of Wigan Youth Zone please visit https://www.wiganyouthzone.org/donate/