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Will you wear yellow socks to show you care about youth loneliness?

Monday 23 September 2019

By Jim Cooke, Head of the Co-op Foundation

Young people say they feel lonely more often than any other age group. Today, we launch a new campaign created by young people to help us all show we care about youth loneliness.

We are lonely, but not alone’ is the product of six months’ work by a group of young creatives using their own experiences of loneliness to help others.

Watch their animation to find out what it’s all about. Then show your support by wearing yellow socks and posting your picture online using #LonelyNotAlone. Keep reading to find out why.

Tackling youth loneliness

We launched our Belong programme to help young people beat loneliness in 2017. We’ve awarded more than £6.5 million to Belong projects UK-wide and are developing resources to help youth workers tackle loneliness more confidently. This builds on the Co-op’s wider campaign to tackle loneliness in partnership with the British Red Cross.

Throughout our work on Belong, we’ve identified a persistent challenge: although 65% of young people agree that loneliness is an issue that affects their age group, the fear of other people’s reactions is a barrier to talking about it.

That’s why earlier this year, we partnered with specialist youth co-design agency, Effervescent, to develop a campaign that would help young people become more confident talking about loneliness, and more likely to take action to address it in themselves and others.

How we made it

Nine young people joined our campaign group and spent an intensive week exploring the challenge we’d set them. They drew out the following insights about how it feels to be lonely as a young person:

  • We think it’s our fault.
  • We think it’s probably going to last forever.
  • We put on a brave face and pretend it doesn’t hurt.
  • There are thousands of us – we are all lonely, but not alone.

So why yellow socks? 

Our young creatives realised that when they felt lonely, they would often avoid people’s eyes and look to the floor. Socks are semi-hidden, like loneliness, but yellow socks can provide a little ray of hope – a flash of colour that shows them that people care.

Read more about the young creatives’ work.

Self-help and solidarity

Our young creatives’ co-operative approach to designing ‘We are lonely, but not alone’ is just one example of the actions many young people are taking to beat youth loneliness.

Our research published today finds that young people exemplify a spirit of self-help when it comes to overcoming the loneliness that most of them feel from time to time.

But self-help alone is not enough. With just 26% of young people feeling confident talking about loneliness and even fewer (23%) believing society takes youth loneliness seriously, we also need to show young people  our solidarity. Only this can help them unlock all the sources of support that could make things better when they feel lonely.

Thank you

We owe a big thank you to our young creatives for their honesty in sharing their experiences, and their creativity in turning these into a campaign that we hope will help thousands of others like them.

Thanks also to our creative partner Effervescent, and to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport for co-funding our research and campaign.

You can get involved by wearing yellow socks, whenever and wherever you like. Together we can show young people that although they may feel lonely, they’re not alone.

Co-op Members can support our work by choosing us as their Local Cause. Fundraisers can also give online or donate unwanted clothes and shoes to official textile banks at Co-op stores.

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