A good start
According to The Mary Foundation’s youth think tank, 60% of young people are afraid of becoming lonely. And this fear has become a reality for 6% of all upper secondary school students in Denmark. This means that several thousand young people are going through life feeling alone in the world. This is a serious problem, because if feelings of loneliness take hold, this can result in significant social and health-related consequences.
But the social aspect is equally, if not more, important. Over time, loneliness can destroy an individual’s ability to do something as banal as conducting a conversation with other people, which, by its very nature, has a self-perpetuating effect. Early intervention is therefore paramount.
Netwerk therefore places the issue under a spotlight early on, when students start new youth education programmes and have a great need to feel part of a community. Netwerk offer material to both teachers and students. These tools and exercises improve cohesiveness in the classroom and prevent the likelihood of anyone feeling left out. This is done by introducing class discussions and set buddies, among other things. Finally, the teachers are given advice on how to identify the danger signs, initiate contact with the students, and help them to overcome the loneliness.
“Cohesiveness involves everyone being open toward each other, and not forming groups. It happens when everyone can talk to each other, and thanks to Netwerk I don't see anyone being excluded. Netwerk has also helped me understand that you are not the only one to have the feelings that we teenagers go through.”
Psychologist and researcher with the University of Southern Denmark, Mathias Lasgaard, is responsible for the follow-up research on the project.
We all feel lonely every now and then; this is a natural part of life. But when the loneliness moves on from being short-lived and situation-specific to being persistent, it becomes damaging to our health and social life. Long-term loneliness is damaging to our health and can destroy our social skills. Loneliness remains an overlooked problem - despite the significant human costs.