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Pull your (yellow) socks up and show lonely young people you’re standing with them

Lonely Not Alone campaign is an initiative created and led by young people themselves, to highlight the issue of youth loneliness within the UK.

Young people are launching the second phase of their campaign to beat the stigma of youth loneliness this week, as new research from the Co-op Foundation finds the Spring lockdown made even more young people feel lonely. 

Lonely Not Alone asks everyone to show they care about youth loneliness by wearing yellow socks and sharing their ‘Outfit of the Day’ on social media with #OOTDYellowSocks. Young people who made the campaign say yellow socks are their symbol of solidarity when they feel lonely and look to the floor.

The campaign was made by a group of 12 to 22-year-olds working together on Zoom during lockdown. They all had different experiences of loneliness, including a young carer, a graduate unable to find suitable work and a young person heading to university this year to study nursing.

The launch follows research of 2,000 10 to 25-year-olds UK-wide. 77% of young people across Wales said they felt lonely at least occasionally during the March to July lockdown, compared to just 58% before restrictions began.

Today, 64% of young people in the region say they are lonely at least occasionally.

The research also found that across the UK:

  • 78% of 16 to 25-year-olds missed out on life events or celebrations during lockdown, including going on holiday, graduating from university and going to their prom.
  • Less than a quarter of young people (23%) think society takes youth loneliness seriously while only a third (36%) feel confident talking about loneliness
  • 27% of young people would be uncomfortable asking for help if they felt lonely while a fifth (19%) said loneliness was something to be embarrassed by.
  • Despite this, young people want to help friends and peers who feel lonely. 91%would be comfortable taking an action to help others, including more than half (52%) who would take part in a campaign like Lonely Not Alone.

Elorm, 16, is a young carer who’s involved in Lonely Not Alone for a second year. She said:

“Going out with friends is complicated [as a young carer]. I feel like if I leave, something might happen to my mum or she might need me. Everything feels so much.

“I want to help people who may feel lost and lonely in a situation like mine. They may not be able to speak up, but if they hear my story, they will know they are being supported.”

Harry, 22, recently graduated with a first-class degree in Media Arts. He’s now looking for suitable work. He said:

“I wanted to get involved in Lonely Not Alone because the power of campaigning and creativity can truly make an impactful mark on the world and cultivate positive discussions. I have experienced loneliness throughout my life but I don’t think I am very different. Everyone experiences loneliness, it just needs people like us to make the first step (in this case in our yellow socks)!”

Lonely Not Alone is funded by Co-op’s charity, the Co-op Foundation.

The Co-op Foundation helps people challenge inequality and co-operate for change, so they can share a fairer future. It has already helped thousands of young people beat loneliness by awarding more than £6.5m to projects UK-wide and helping to develop networks and resources to support youth workers long term.

Jamie Ward-Smith, Chair of the Co-op Foundation said: “Lonely Not Alone is an important part of our long-term commitment to helping young people beat loneliness. Working through a period that’s been so unsettling and challenging for everyone, it’s been inspiring to see our young co-designers step up to produce such a powerful campaign. And it’s really easy to get involved and show your support.

“That’s why we want everyone to wear their yellow socks, post their selfies online and show they care about youth loneliness. Let’s make sure young people know that even though they might be lonely, they’re not alone.”

Minister for Loneliness, Baroness Barran said: “This year has brought loneliness to the forefront of all our minds, and it’s more important than ever that we look out for our young people.

“I’m pleased to work alongside the Co-op Foundation to raise awareness of this issue, tackle the stigma and encourage people to reach out to someone so that no one needs to feel alone.”