Penny’s story – beating loneliness by helping her peers

“By speaking up for other disabled young people through Whizz-Kidz, I’m making new friends and helping others in need” – Penny, 16.

Penny has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair to get around.

Mobility issues have increased her feelings of isolation while the stigma she experiences about her disability has previously made it hard to make friends.

But now, thanks to our funding for the Whizz-Kidz ‘My Achievements’ programme for young wheelchair users, Penny is taking actions to beat her own feelings of loneliness, making new friends and advocating to help others.

She says: “I didn’t have many friends growing up and loneliness was something that affected me a lot. But by speaking up for other disabled young people, I’m making new friends and helping others in need.”

The stigma of disability and loneliness

Penny grew up in Derby, in the East Midlands. She has used a wheelchair since she was three years old. The physical and social barriers she encountered have made it difficult to make new friends and socialise with her peers.

She says: “I often felt people judged me because of my disability and this caused me to withdraw from people my age. It’s meant I’ve felt very lonely in the past so I know the impact loneliness can have on self-esteem and mental health. 

“There’s a massive stigma around loneliness, too, because people just don’t feel confident talking about it. People think it has a quick fix but it runs much deeper than that. You can feel like you have no-one even when you’re in a crowded room.” 

Taking actions to beat loneliness

Over the years, Penny has developed a range of tools to help feel less lonely.

She initially found company through books but recently became more proactive, reaching out to friends and asking for their support. Much of this new-found confidence is a result of the support she’s received on Whizz-Kidz’ My Achievements personal development programme.

Penny joined this programme in 2017 and slowly increased her confidence, skills and friendship group. This then empowered her to become chair of the charity’s advisory panel, the Kidz Board, which steers the work of Whizz-Kidz and advocates on behalf of young wheelchair users.

Penny says: “I can see through my work at Whizz Kidz the importance of having someone to talk to to ward off loneliness. I feel more confident, too, and my passion for words has led me to start to write on a freelance basis. I’m now thinking of pursuing a career in journalism. I’m looking to the future.”

Lonely Not Alone

Our research found 73% of young people have taken an action just like Penny to help other young people who might be lonely.

But we can all do our bit. 

Show you care about lonely young people today by wearing yellow socks and supporting our Lonely Not Alone campaign. Why yellow socks? Find out why and show us your socks selfie on Twitter.

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