As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, loneliness has become a rising and more widespread issue, evoking global concern. Combat Loneliness is a new taskforce dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding of loneliness and its impact on people at all life stages through studies and resources. Sydney-based clinical psychologist Eva Lowy hopes that this new study she is conducting will benefit the Jewish community in getting talking about combating loneliness.
Q: How did you get involved in Combat Loneliness?
I began to read about loneliness and its increase due to various factors, such as the ageing of populations, the dissolution of the traditional family, the effect of technology on our lives and increased geographic mobility. I read that the problem of social isolation was so significant in Britain that the Government appointed a Minister of Loneliness.
As a clinical psychologist I was intrigued by this and wondered about the effect of these problems in Australia. I began to read widely in the area, and was impressed by the research and the evidence of social isolation and loneliness globally.
Q: What is this study about?
The study is focusing on how loneliness and social isolation affects Sydney’s Jewish Community. What is being explored is how a person experiences social isolation and/or loneliness, what circumstances make them feel that way, what impact social isolation has on their life and mental health, and how connected they feel to the Jewish Community.
Q: What does this study hope to achieve?
The study hopes to provide data as to whether there is loneliness in Sydney’s Jewish community being experienced – not only among the elderly but across all age groups. If we find that people are struggling with the lack of connection in their lives, it will hopefully encourage community organisations to take remedial action and begin talking about loneliness, which until now many people have found stigmatising.
Q: Why is loneliness such an important problem to address?
Humans are hard-wired to connect. Connection with others is vital for people’s well-being and mental health. We have seen the effects of lack of connection and social distancing during Covid. We know from Lifeline and organisations such as Black Dog Institute that they have been deluged with calls from people who feel depressed, anxious and unhappy, and do not know how to cope. We hope that the findings of this study will get the Jewish Community talking, discussing and building pathways to connection which will benefit us all.
The taskforce explained
The Combat Loneliness Taskforce aims to:
- Increase awareness of loneliness and its consequences,
- Design, implement and evaluate research-based programs to combat loneliness, addressing gaps not being filled by existing programs,
- Function as an advisory body to Jewish Communal organisations with respect to loneliness-reduction programs.
The Combat Loneliness Taskforce intends to tackle loneliness at the community-level by:
- Partnering with Jewish community leaders and community organisations to prioritise the alleviation of loneliness as a health and social issue,
- Encouraging community leaders and organisations to acknowledge that loneliness is a problem,
- Publicising and normalising loneliness to remove the stigma,
- Facilitating the development and implementation of user-friendly social programs to alleviate loneliness,
- Recruiting and training volunteers to understand the needs of lonely people.
The Combat Loneliness Taskforce’s goals are guided by the need to:
- Design social programs that bring together people who have ties and a sense of belonging with the Jewish community,
- Reach out to members by publicising information about various social programs which may be of interest,
- Involve members’ participation in program design,
- Evaluate existing social programs to assess if they satisfy members’ needs.