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Ventilen and The Mary Foundation combat loneliness

19th November 2012

From 10 am until 12 noon on 22 November 2012, HRH Crown Princess Mary, Ventilen (The Valve) and The Mary Foundation will join students and teachers at Falkonergårdens Gymnasium, an upper secondary school in Copenhagen, and shine a spotlight on loneliness. The occasion will mark Ventilen’s and the Mary Foundation’s joint project, Netwerk (Network), which is supported by The Lauritzen Foundation and has been running in 17 selected upper secondary schools – including Falkonergården. Netwerk aims to prevent loneliness among students attending youth education programmes by strengthening the sense of community and culture within the classroom; and the initial feedback indicates that students are very excited about the project.

Six per cent of upper secondary school students often or always feel alone, and according to The Mary Foundation’s Unge Tænketank (Youth Think Tank), more than 60% of the young people involved are worried about becoming lonely in the future. Young people are increasingly interested in belonging, and it is true that loneliness can have significant social and health-related consequences. If loneliness takes hold and becomes a long-lasting feeling, it can hinder basic social skills such as simply entering into a conversation with other people. And long-term loneliness stresses us to such a degree that it is equally as dangerous as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, or more.

The voluntary social organisation, Ventilen, and The Mary Foundation launched the pilot phase of Network in August – and this has led to a secure start for new students at the selected schools participating in the trail. The project equips teachers to see and contact the quiet students and it includes specific methods, such as class discussions and buddy groups, which are implemented from the outset.

“Cohesiveness involves everyone being open toward each other, and not forming groups. Everyone can talk to everyone else and, in that regard, it seems to me that no-one is being excluded thanks to the Netwerk project. The Netwerk project has also helped me understand that you are not the only one to have the feelings that we teenagers go through, including feeling lonely.” Excerpt from a first-year student’s essay on the Netwerk project.

During the current initial phase, Netwerk is being piloted by 17 selected upper secondary schools, and at least 20 additional schools – and hopefully more – will be able to follow suit when the 2013/14 school year starts.

“Netwerk is for all students attending youth education programmes, because a community spirit takes shape when everyone in the class takes social responsibility – and everyone enjoys being in a class that embraces diversity. Our follow-up research is still underway, but initial findings suggest that the students have been very pleased to have a buddy, and that the teachers will recommend that Netwerk is offered to students on a permanent basis – and this bodes well for the project,” The Mary Foundation’s director Helle Østergaard explains.

The final results of the follow-up research will be presented during the first half of 2013. It is hoped that the research will prove that Netwerk can have a positive impact on class culture and on the individual students’ well-being socially – while also shining a spotlight on loneliness and breaking down the taboo surrounding it.

Psychologist and loneliness researcher with the University of Southern Denmark, Mathias Lasgaard, is responsible for the follow-up research involving the 17 selected schools and the 17 schools that make up the control group.

Facts and background

  • The Mary Foundation strives to combat social isolation.
  • The work of The Mary Foundation focuses on three areas:
    Bullying and Well-being, Domestic Violence and Loneliness.
  • The Mary Foundation’s first project on loneliness is Netwerk – a collaborative effort with Ventilen (The Valve) designed to prevent loneliness among students attending youth education programmes. The project also involves a partnership initiative with DR Tværs (an online portal that provides advice and guidance to young people), and The Lauritzen Foundation is the project’s financial partner.
  • Ventilen (The Valve) is a voluntary social organisation for young people, which runs 17 local initiatives for young people, including meeting places and exercise programmes.
  • Ventilen strives to prevent and remedy feelings of loneliness among young people.
  • Netwerk bases its work on the following definition of loneliness: Loneliness is a feeling of not having one’s social needs met. Loneliness is therefore a subjective feeling, which means that two people with similar social relationships can therefore feel lonely and not lonely, respectively.
  • The project equips teachers to see and contact the quiet students; it also includes specific methods, such as class discussions and buddy groups, which are implemented from the outset.
  • A seminar on the prevention of loneliness and the Netwerk’s methods was held for all the teachers of the 17 upper secondary schools in the spring of 2012. In November 2012, the same teachers will be offered another seminar on how to identify and support students who are lonely or failing to thrive socially.
  • Upper secondary schools will be able to order/buy Netwerk as of next year. The schools will be offered a place on a first-come-first-served basis.
  • View The Mary Foundation’s panel of experts within the Loneliness focus area at: http://www.maryfonden.dk/Om-Mary-Fonden/Ekspertpaneler/Ensomhed.aspx

Facts about loneliness
Studies from the Mary Foundation’s Unge Tænketank (Youth Think Tank) for 15-24 year-olds conducted in October 2012 and September 2011 show that:

  • More than 60% are afraid of becoming lonely
  • 6% often feel lonely when they are together with other young people
  • 8% often feel lonely when they are at school, in general.
  • 11% rate the social well-being of their class as “poor” or “very poor” at the beginning of the school year.
  • 14% often feel lonely during their first few weeks at a new school/educational institution.
  • 21% often missed having someone to be with during their first few weeks at school.
  • 37% believe that they feel lonely because they lack self-confidence and feel they are good for nothing.


Heidi Krumhardt Mortensen, head of communication, The Mary Foundation: +45 30 25 30 53.

Rillo Snerup Rud, secretariat director, Ventilen, tel: +45 70 20 83 08/+45 40 21 11 44