Loneliness impacts us all. You may not have experienced it yourself, but someone close to you has, is, or will at some time in their life will feel lonely.
No two people’s experience with loneliness will be the same. It can be wanting to feel understood – to be heard, to not be ignored. It can mean feeling alone even when surrounded by people. It can be having no one to turn to when you need it most.
It has no boundaries – it crosses generations, sex, religion, race, gender, income, family status, jobs. And while it was a significant societal issue before COVID hit, we know it has gotten worse through the pandemic.
We also know feeling connected – to someone or something – can help protect against loneliness. But we are all more connected than ever, so we also know it’s not that simple. And often the very connectivity we crave and surround ourselves with every day is the thing that can make us feel isolated.
That’s why we’re taking steps to draw the issue out. To start a conversation. As a company with connectivity at the core of our purpose, we are shining a light on loneliness and what can be done to turn things around.
To put the issue in perspective, our Talking Loneliness report showed 44% of Australians regularly feel lonely. 27% of us felt it for the first time during COVID. Nine out of ten of us have experienced loneliness at some time.
And the real kicker – half of us are too embarrassed to admit it.
That means it’s more than likely that someone close to you could be struggling with it. It could be your brother, neighbour or workmate and you may never know. That’s why we want to challenge the preconceptions about who might be lonely and to encourage Australians to find a sense of connection through their shared experience.
We believe companies like Telstra can play an important role in starting conversations about issues that matter to our employees and the community.
We’ve been connecting people through telecommunications for more than 100 years but our purpose here is broader. We believe everyone deserves to feel connected. Our call to action for Australians to start talking about loneliness is one way we can bring focus to this growing issue.
Everyone’s loneliness has a story
We spoke to a diverse group of Australians across all age groups about their experiences with loneliness. I want to thank them for being brave enough to share their stories.
Each story stuck with me, as I am certain it will stick with you. Their stories remind me of people I know, and even emotions I have felt during the last 18 months.
I recently shared that I lost my mother in the last year and since her passing, I have not been able to return home to the UK to see my father and connect face-to-face.
My father lost his wife of 60 years. Prior to her death it was difficult to engage with my mother given the nature of her illness. We have regular calls and video chats, of course, but watching him come to terms with her illness and then life alone is incredibly difficult and, now, like anybody with an elderly parent living by themselves, I’m worried he is lonely.
The simple ability to connect with him at any time, night or day, on good days and bad, is incredibly precious to us both.
As those in our video series have shown, sharing is powerful, and the first step to tackling the loneliness epidemic.
What we are doing next
Right now, Telstra team members have an annual volunteer day to help worthy causes in their local community. We’ll now be encouraging them to direct this time to help address loneliness.
With the Telstra Connection Day, we will incentivise our eligible team members who have access to an annual volunteer leave day to dedicate their time to third-party programs that support lonely people in their community and help build real connections.
Making an impact on loneliness can start with small steps. We have engaged Dr Michelle Lim, a loneliness expert, to provide advice on how to establish or maintain connections if you or someone around you may be lonely.
Loneliness is a problem we can face together. By reaching out. By asking questions. By connecting. Because when we have the courage to start sharing, we’ll discover we are not alone.
For more on loneliness, visit telstra.com/loneliness.
If you need help, mental health support services are available through:
Beyond Blue – 1300 22 4636
Lifeline – 13 11 14
Kids Helpline – 1800 55 1800