People across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly are being asked to ‘phone a friend’ and then challenge three pals on social media to do the same as part of a campaign to combat loneliness.
It is hoped that as many people as possible will embrace the idea and reach out to someone they may have lost touch with or who might be socially isolated.
The ‘Phone a Friend’ campaign is being launched on Friday (July 30) by the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Health and Care Partnership, which includes Cornwall Council and local NHS partners.
It coincides with International Day of Friendship on the same day.
Dr Richard Sharpe, Advanced Public Health Practitioner with Cornwall Council’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Team, said: “Loneliness can affect anyone, regardless of your age, background or personal circumstances, and has become even more widespread during the pandemic.
“But it is proven that connecting with others can really help boost people’s mental health and wellbeing, which is why we’re launching the ‘Phone a Friend’ campaign.
“Here’s what to do - pick up the phone and call anyone who might be lonely; it could be an old schoolmate, a relative or a friend from work. Then all you need to do is write a post about it on social media with the hashtag #phoneafriend and challenge three other friends to do the same.
“Don’t worry if you’re not on social media though, you can still take part by simply picking up the phone and giving someone a call!
“We’d encourage everyone to join in, whoever you are, as we really want our message to gain momentum and help as many people as possible feel connected and cared about. Loneliness is a serious issue – but together we can beat it.”
An Office of National Statistics report in April stated that 45.5 per cent of Cornish residents reported feeling lonely.
Furthermore, guidance from the Local Government Association and Association of Directors of Public Health suggests that loneliness can be as bad for people as smoking and alcohol consumption. It is also strongly linked to the development of stress and anxiety.
A recent Ofcom report showed that a quarter of people make less than five calls a month, while six per cent make no calls at all. Another study from Ofcom suggests that younger people prefer to use messaging services, such as WhatsApp, rather than use their phones to talk.
Cllr Dr Andy Virr, Portfolio Holder for Adults and Public Health, said: “It’s not surprising that many people in Cornwall are struggling with loneliness as isolation has been such a big theme of the pandemic. So let’s start reconnecting and helping each other again.
“We all have a phone these days so why not use it to make somebody’s day? Your call could make all the difference.”
Tim Francis, Head of Adult MH&LD Joint Strategic Commissioning at NHS Kernow CCG, said: “This campaign marks our ongoing commitment to support the mental health and wellbeing of our population across Cornwall and the Isle of Scilly. Alongside our colleagues in Public Health, we hope that this will inspire and mobilise our whole community to work together to support each other.
“A collective effort across front line health and social care services has been a testament to the commitment and passion of the entire workforce and shown that we really can come together at a time of immense challenge.”
He added: “This is a call-out to everyone out there, young and old, to make mental health and wellbeing their business and to make a difference and please ‘Phone a Friend’ today. Your call could make the world of difference to someone who may not have felt able to talk about feeling lonely or vulnerable.
“We would also encourage anyone who is feeling vulnerable, in need of some support or simply a conversation with someone who can listen, to call our freephone NHS 24/7 mental health crisis and support line on 0800 038 5300. People are waiting to hear from you.”
For more information on the campaign, visit www.cornwall.gov.uk/phoneafriend
For more on mental health support visit www.cornwall.gov.uk/mentalhealth