During my fifteen years as a health professional for the NHS, I had a couple of years working on a Macmillan cancer care project. I frequently met people who had worked in cancer services for a long time, who had worked in local hospitals where cancer had been referred to as the ‘C’ word or the ‘big C’. It was stigmatized quite heavily until recently and that made me think of some of the similarities to loneliness and how people avoid using the word. Even in the charity and health sector there are often discussions about what language to use and an aversion to using the word loneliness because it might upset people. Whereas Marmalade Trust comes from a different place, where we feel that loneliness is really normal and that we shouldn’t avoid using the word. It’s really important to talk about it, own it and say it – and then we can encourage people to not have a stigma around it. So don’t use the L word, or shy away from it, talk about loneliness instead.
‘Loneliness is a feeling like any other’
Here at Marmalade Trust we’re pioneering the approach that loneliness is something that is normal and that it will affect everyone at some point in their lives. Admittedly, it isn’t a pleasant feeling, but a feeling that we are missing something. You could liken this to hunger being a sign that you are in need of food. Is loneliness the feeling you get when you do not have enough social contact? What we do know is that is it fixable. But in order to fix something, we really shouldn’t avoid talking about it.
Cancer services have moved on a lot over the past few decades, and much of that is down to the people who have not avoided talking about it, but rather said the word. Loneliness…it’s not that scary is it?!