'People feel embarrassed and ashamed': Why lonely youngsters aren’t seeking help as Government launches campaign

28 February 2024, 18:13 | Updated: 28 February 2024, 18:15

A group of influencers have joined a Government campaign to tackle loneliness in young people
A group of influencers have joined a Government campaign to tackle loneliness in young people. Picture: Department for Culture, Media and Sport

By Seb Cheer

Young people are failing to seek help to overcome loneliness because of 'shame' and 'stigma' surrounding the issue, LBC has been told.

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A group of influencers have joined a Government campaign aiming to encourage more youngsters to talk about feeling lonely.

Research carried out for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has found those aged 16 to 24 are the loneliest age group, but are also the least likely to take action to help themselves.

A survey of university students found nearly half have hidden their feelings of loneliness for fear of being judged.

Heartstopper's Bradley Riches on loneliness

Actor Bradley Riches, who plays James in teen drama Heartstopper and is involved in the campaign, has told LBC one of the major hurdles preventing young people seeking help is 'shame'.

He said: "People don't speak out about feeling lonely because they feel embarrassed and ashamed.

"When I was feeling lonely, you start turning it onto yourself, like 'am I lonely because of something I'm doing? There's something wrong with me because no-one else is feeling this way'.

"Everyone is sometimes feeling this way because it's completely normal."

Heartstopper, the Netflix show Bradley stars in has been praised for representation of LGBTQ+ people on screen.

His character, James McEwen, is gay and autistic - which Bradley also is.

Bradley said it would have helped him at times he was feeling lonely if he had access to such a show earlier on in life.

He said: "Even if you're not having those human interactions, you see part of yourself in a show, in a book in a play.

"That moment that you see yourself in characters or in real-life people, you go, 'I'm not alone,' and that makes you feel so much less lonely."

The group met at Downing Street to discuss the campaign.
The group met at Downing Street to discuss the campaign. Picture: Department for Culture, Media and Sport

Meanwhile, Bobby Brazier, from EastEnders and former Love Islander Tasha Ghouri are also among the celebrities opening up about their experience of loneliness.

Tasha said: "I was born into a hearing family and being the only deaf person was difficult, as sometimes my family never understood what I was going through and I had no-one to relate with. It felt lonely a lot of the time, and isolating.

"When I got to secondary school I was the only deaf student, and no-one else knew BSL so I had to force myself to use my speech and communicate in that way, which was draining and I felt like an outsider at times.

"I probably felt the most lonely then because I felt different and not seen. That was very hard and I just had to get through it but whenever I asked for help, sometimes I was looked down on and not listened to."

Over the next six weeks, a serious of adverts will appear on social media, showing scenarios where young people might commonly feel lonely. They will also direct viewers to find support.

The group has launched a campaign to tackle loneliness.
The group has launched a campaign to tackle loneliness. Picture: Department for Culture, Media and Sport

The campaign is being led by Loneliness Minister, Stuart Andrew MP, who told LBC about his own experience of loneliness, when he realised that he is gay.

He said: "It was in the 80s and I was living in a rural part of Wales. I just felt very very isolated at that time.

"One of my friends started talking to me and said, 'you seem a bit different at the moment,' so I opened up that I was feeling lonely because I was just coming to terms with my sexuality and was anxious about admitting that.

"I think it's got a lot better but it doesn't mean to say it's not a big moment in someone's life."

Influencer and entrepreneur Brontë King opened up the struggles she endured moving to university, which saw her "in [her] bedroom, crying, most days" on the phone to her parents saying she wanted to go home.

"I was really embarrassed to say I felt lonely, because I was watching everyone's Instagram stories and Snapchat stories of them having the best time ever at university," she added.

Content creator Anastasia Kingsnorth also said: "I think there's a lot of fear in admitting that feeling, and that's where the loneliness comes from.

"But as soon as you start speaking about it to someone and admit it to yourself, you can start to make little changes."

During the campaign period, online messaging platform Discord will also direct people towards support on the NHS website.

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