Loneliness is a hard thing to talk about. We all experience break ups, bereavement, illnesses and changes in work or hometown during our lives, and these things can sometimes leave us feeling alone or isolated. And while no one wants to think of themselves as being lonely, it can be hard to bounce back from without the realisation that something is wrong.
If you think that you or a friend are suffering from loneliness, look out for these 6 key signs. If they sound familiar, it might be time to try and tackle the loneliness head-on.
This March we launched the findings of a major new piece of research conducted in association with the University of York. We wanted to explore the social, economic and health impacts that our work has had on our beneficiaries.
We always love hearing from the people that we help, and seeing how our work has made a difference to their lives. We wanted to share with you some of the letters of thanks that we have received!
We at WaveLength work with charities and individuals across the country. The people that we help are all very different, but they all have one thing in common. They all suffer from loneliness and social isolation. By gifting them something as simple as a radio or television we can help them to overcome their loneliness and improve their lives.
The people we help come from all walks of life and include ill and disabled people, elderly people, homeless and ex-homeless, refugees and survivors of domestic violence to name a few. Here’s how our small gift has affected some of those people.
Last Friday Tim visited Leicester with our Ambassador Kirsty Rose. They went to meet some community members at the Adhar Project, who we recently gave 10 tablet computers and 2 smart TVs, and to unveil 16 brand new 32″ TVs at Leicester Royal Infirmary. Here’s how they got on!
Media technology can help people who are isolated connect to the outside world in ways that can be life-changing. A change in environment, the breakdown of a relationship, poverty or mental health problems can all lead to social isolation or loneliness that can be difficult to resolve, or sometimes even to talk about. New research shows that providing people with radios, televisions or tablet computers can help them to re-engage with the world and overcome their loneliness.
Recently, the WaveLength board and staff were extremely happy to be able to welcome one of our celebrity ambassadors, Miss UK Kirsty-Rose Heslewood, at a trustee reception.
Trustee Tony Judd was able to book the Flyfishers Club in central London to greet Kirsty and let her find out more about our work. The event was also a great time to give our trustees a run-down on our research project with the University of York, finding out more about the needs of WaveLength’s current and future beneficiaries.
You can now listen to the first WaveLength Radio Academy podcast at www.radioacademy.org/podcasts. The 15 minute podcast is a great introduction to WaveLength’s work and priorities, with Radio Academy’s Paul Robinson interviewing our CEO Tim Leech. Paul and Tim are joined by Michael Ferguson and Ken, who told us how technology improves the lives of homeless people in London. Michael is a representative of London homelessness charity Passage, and Ken is a floating mental health support worker working with the homeless in Westminster. They have both referred lots of homeless people to us for our support.
Tim recently made a visit to an inspirational group of people in Leicester. The Adhar Project provides support for Asian-heritage people who are struggling with poor mental health or have learning difficulties, and their families. “Adhar” means “support” in the Sanskrit language.
The Adhar project is a great example of an organisation stepping up to do what’s needed for the most vulnerable people in their communities. It’s been going since 1989 and their lovely service co-ordinators and volunteers work closely with social workers to deliver emotional support, family intervention, education, day trips and keep fit classes in Asian languages.
When WaveLength staff paid them a visit, we were thrilled to see the women’s group enjoying the smart TV we provided. The TV’s digital capability was really important to them, letting them access local news in their own languages, Asian films and YouTube beauty tutorials, which they wouldn’t have with traditional TVs.
WaveLength staff recently made a visit to an inspirational group of people in Leicester. The Adhar Project provides support for Asian-heritage people who are struggling with poor mental health or have learning difficulties, and their families. “Adhar” means “support” in the Sanskrit language.
The Orchid Friendship Group in Nottinghamshire brings together over-50s suffering from loneliness in rural communities. We donated a big TV for them to watch films on when they get together, and several tablet computers to individuals to help them keep in touch with family living far off.
Our Ambassadors will help to spread the word about WaveLength, act as inspiration for our beneficiaries and supporters, and amplify the voices of our beneficiaries – both among people who need WaveLength’s help but haven’t heard of us yet, and among potential donors. Continue reading…
Helping formerly homeless people to get to grips with their new Hudl tablet computers, in our latest partnership with Passage in Westminster. We’re proud to support Passage’s ‘Home for Good’ scheme, which helps formerly homeless people settle into their new homes and tackle the isolation of changing circumstances.
Orchid Friendship Group in North Nottinghamshire brings people together through befriending and a day centre. We gave them a big smart TV, a DVD player and four Hudl tablets! Since we’ve been running more projects in partnership with other charities and organisations, WaveLength’s equipment helps a huge and diverse variety of people. Our CEO Tim likes to get out to see the effects our equipment is having, and meet our partners and beneficiaries face to face.
Our lovely Ambassadors are hard at work representing WaveLength to the public. Here, they tell you why they chose us.
“Working in radio, I realise how many people rely on their radio for company, Radio presenters all over the world receive thousands of letters every day from people stating that fact. I am proud to be an ambassador for Wavelength.’ – Rick Wakeman, YES keyboardist, “Grumpy Old Man” and radio presenter
‘I decided to become an Ambassador for Wavelength because in this day and age, we can forget that some people still do not have the TVs and radios that most of us take for granted. After reading some letters of thanks from the people helped by Wavelength, I know that without their TVs and radios some are housebound in silence which is not a healthy way to live. Loneliness is cruel and can lead to depression, and bringing TV and radio into homes helps massively with loneliness and mental health. When I was suffering myself with Selective Mutism as a child, I could be in a crowded classroom but still felt lonely. The need to get home to speak was extremely important to me. People should feel most comfortable and happy in their own homes. Wavelength strives to bring that comfort and peace of mind to everyone.’ – Kirsty Rose Heslewood, Reigning Miss UKContinue reading…
We were chuffed today to receive a lovely picture of Simon at St Anne’s hostel, enjoying his new radio. St Anne’s provides accommodation and support for homeless men over 25 – a neglected demographic – and is the only homelessness hostel in Birmingham which accepts dogs!
We sent them a 32 inch TV for a communal area back in April, and in June sent along five radios for individuals’ rooms as well.
Here is a pic of Simon enjoying his new radio. As you can see, he doesn’t have a lot of possessions. It can be tough to make a hostel room feel like home, so we’re really glad that the new radio is helping Simon to settle in and feel less lonely. Mark from St Anne’s says Simon has ‘benefited greatly from his radio’.
Tim talked with Radio Academy’s Paul Robinson, and two homelessness outreach workers who give out WaveLength radios, about the difference this equipment can make to people struggling to make changes in their lives.
One of the great things about our organisational projects is the way that they give us a glimpse into the schemes being carried out up and down the country to bring comfort and companionship to lonely people.
“The person I gave it to is from Kosovo and they had to flee tothis country at the time of the crisis. They have worked so hard since coming to this country, husband working, eldest son going to university but life still tends to kick them in the teeth. The husband recently lost his job due to ill health and they are now back living on benefits with very little money. She is over the moon with the radio.
Companionship for older people in rural Nottinghamshire and for older homeless men in St Anne’s, Birmingham – the only Midlands hostel to accept dogs!
Recently we’ve heard some lovely things about the equipment we provide, and we’d like to share it with out supporters.
The Orchid Friendship Group in Ollerton, Nottinghamshire, represents a range of isolated people from ex-mining villages. For many the weekly group is the only time they get out of the house for the social contact they desperately need for health and wellbeing.
Lis Lawrence, Director of Care + Comfort which runs the group, says, ‘The group are delighted that they will be able to watch television and some of their favourite films and DVD. This means so much to them.”
Meanwhile, St Anne’s Hostel in Birmingham let us know that our TV has provided a social hub for older residents of their single men’s homelessness refuge. These men enjoy having a place to socialise while watching programmes that don’t necessarily appeal to ‘youngsters.’
“Particularly the soaps!”
St Anne’s workers say the WaveLength TV “has brought a number of residents out of their rooms and enabled more communal cohesion between residents.”
The hostel supports men moving on to their own tenancies in the future. So they know how important it is, when changing a chaotic life, to engage with other people and move away from self-isolation.
We’d like to say to all WaveLength supporters – thank you so much, for helping us to help more people every day.
We’ve recently received some very touching feedback. Two letters in particular we’d really like to share with you.
Cambridge Women’s Aid has provided a moving update on the families supported by our TVs and radios when they move from the refuge into their own accommodation, with very little to call their own.
Meanwhile, a gentleman who’s brought himself out of homelessness with the help of Together Working for Wellbeing got in touch to tell us what a difference our donors’ help has made.
Angie from Cambridge Women’s Aid says:
“Since we received your kind donation of several televisions, we have had two families resettle in our local area from the refuge who have benefited from this donation. Family number one is a mum and three children and family number two is a mum and four children.
“Family One had been in refuge for just over eight months, and Family Two fir six and a half months. Neither family had any possessions of their own and were very grateful to be supported by a television from WaveLength. They have both managed the transition from refuge to living in their own homes well.
“Now that Community Care Grants have gone, our families can only receive three household goods from the Local Authority when moving into their own home. Many of our families have nothing to set up home with so rely greatly on donations to add to these three items to have any hope in moving on in their lives. We are unable to pass on second-hand televisions so this donation is very much appreciated. Thank you for the support!
“Since then the televisions have continued to support families restarting their lives after being so unsettled due to violence and abuse. Four televisions have gone on to support four more families who were reliant on donations for their new homes. One family comprised a mother and a teenager who had been in refuge for four months. Another comprised a mother and two young children and had been in refuge for eleven months. The third comprised a mother and a young child who had been in refuge for four months, and family four comprised of a mother and two children and had been in refuge for nine months.
“The televisions were a source of great support to all of the families. To date, the six televisions have helped six adults and thirteen children.”
These TVs are on long-term loan so that WaveLength can pass them on in the future. However, Angie told us,
“The majority of our families are destitute when they arrive at refuge and we are seeing more and more families dealing with significant debt issues. Although we continue to support families to be independent when they have left refuge, they continue to deal with a number of pressures, which mean they are still in need of the support given by Wavelength. We have many more families who would truly benefit from this support when they leave refuge.”
We’re so incredibly proud to be part of these families’ journeys into independence. As you can see, there is still a great need for support, particularly with cuts to community care grants. Anything you can give could help us to make a difference to the lives of people suffering from isolation – just donate online or by cheque.
“I would like to thank your charity for helping me in my time of great need. I suffer with Mental Health difficulties and have been homeless and bankrupt. I have received fantastic support from my Project Co-ordinator and now have a safe secure roof over my head. My biggest problem in settling in and trying to rebuild my life was feeling lonely and to make my new residence feel like home. With your help, I now have a television and radio, the difference this has made to my life is unbelievable. Knowing that people are willing to help and give me a chance to get back on my feet is also a positive start on the way back to health and happiness.”
We know that the impact of our help on beneficiaries, alongside the benefits from the actual TV and radios, includes the emotional support of knowing that people – WaveLength’s supporters and donors – care about them and think they deserve more. As we crowded around this letter in the office, we were really moved that this beneficiary decided to reach out.
Some really touching feedback landed in the WaveLength inbox today from two amazing organisations that we’ve supplied with TVs and radios. One case history, and some lovely photos, that inspired us and moved us.
Endike Community Care runs a day centre in Hull that aims to stop loneliness for elderly people. Social stimulation and regular contact can help to slow dementia and makes an enormous amount of difference to older people’s health and happiness.
“Mr X came to us through the Community Mental Health team in Liverpool, in July 13, on discharge from hospital. When he first moved into the scheme, Mr X was very withdrawn, anxious and found it difficult to communicate. He also had trust issues. Over the first few weeks we supported Mr X to settle into his accommodation and put routine and structure into his days whilst learning to trust myself, Rachel Moran and my colleague Peter Boylan.
“Mr X had not watched television or listened to a radio for a number of years as he believed that he was receiving messages through them, which would in turn effect his mental health and cause it to deteriorate and trigger a psychotic episode.
“After being in our project for a few weeks, Mr X reported that he felt settled and well enough to try to use a television and radio. When he received the radio and television from Wavelength, it took him a little time to adjust but eventually he got used to watching selected programmes and listing to the radio. He has actually started to find it both a distraction and a therapy for his mental health, and his psychiatrist has reported that he is the most stable he has been for a number of years and is engaging really well with his support.
“We were able to use the equipment you gifted us to help us engage with one of our most difficult and complex clients.”
We were really proud today to get some lovely feedback from a Scottish mental health association xanax online that we’ve supplied with a TV for its Recovery College. PAMH helps people with mental ill-health, their carers, families, friends and potential employers to learn how to manage and control their illness so that they can get the most out of their lives, relationships etc.
Jillian tells us, “We have already run several pilot courses where we have used the television for display purposes and this has been most beneficial to both participants and course deliverers. Staff are also using the television to practice delivery and view materials appropriate for use in sessions with clients. As we go forward, the television will be fully utilized in our work.
“This equipment has been monumental in helping us to develop and deliver courses within our service.”
It’s fantastic to know that just one piece of our equipment can make such a difference. Our new model of partnering with organisations means that our supporters’ donations are really maximized, bringing real support and progress to the most isolated people in our society.
Janet speaks to St Nicholas’ Ladies Club
Recently our Project Worker Janet gave a talk about WaveLength’s history and activities to St Nicholas’ Ladies Club, a church club near our Hornchurch offices. She told them all about WaveLength’s 75 years of fighting loneliness, and our self-funded model, which means that we depend on donations rather than support from the government or councils.
She also passed around some photos we found in the back of the office cupboards, which really touched a lot of people! A couple of these are below – for more, take a look at our Facebook page or Pinterest board.
In 2010, 40% of domestic abuse victims were men. But there are very few refuges in the UK for male survivors of abuse. Instead, many male survivors end up homeless, either living on the streets or moving between hostels.
Herring House homelessness centre is one shelter that cares for men who have escaped abuse. We gave them some TVs and radios for the men to enjoy. In this video, staff at Herring House tell us how domestic abuse drives men into homelessness.
Tim talks to two of the staff members at Herring House. We recently donated TVs and radios to their High Support Unit which helps people with long-term complex problems. They tell us that TVs help foster the sense of control and self-esteem that enables people to lift themselves out of homelessness.
“I would just like to express the deepest gratitude for all your help in getting back on my feet. I have been suffering with anxiety disorder and depression for quite some time now and it had really brought me down, but since I met my housing support officer John, he has been helping me and motivating me to get back on my feet with your amazing help. Once I have the neccessities in my flat such as furniture i.e. a cooker I am very confident I will be able to stabilise myself. I am currently working alongside the job centre writing a business plan so in the future I can run a successful make up and beauty business, which I am qualified in.
“Once again thank you so much.”
It’s really touching to hear of the difference we’ve made to people struggling to lift themselves up out of isolation.
Women’s Aid Leicestershire
A Women’s Aid refuge in Leicestershire that we support with radios in Leicestershire has asked its residents for statements on how they’ve made a difference, and received some lovely comments.
“Children dance around the room to the music”
“It lifts my mood, makes me feel good, when I’m cleaning my room I put the radio on”
“It makes me feel really happy; I can listen to three Asian radio stations. I don’t watch TV or read so it really really helps it is my friend”
“Relaxes you, everyone can listen to their own choice of music whenever they want to”
People often don’t believe that radios are still relevant and useful in the present day, but we’re constantly told how useful they are. Not only do they mean no-one has to pay a regular TV licence fee, but they provide a manageable amount of stimulation for people who need to be able to control their own living spaces. Many people who have intrusive mental health symptoms need this level of stimulation, and since we’ve been working with refuges for those escaping domestic violence, we’re hearing that the ability to get companionship from a choice of radio programmes makes a huge difference.
To read more about WaveLength’s work with Women’s Aid refuges, click here.
Women’s Aid Leicestershire (WALL) says,
“A refuge is a safe house where women with or without children can live free from abuse and have time and space to recover and start to take control of their lives. When in refuge women are provided with help and support to enable women to move on to permanent accommodation or accommodation that is more suited to their needs.
“Our refuge prides itself on being a friendly welcoming and safe environment where women can feel at home and get to know other women and receive necessary support from workers and other women in similar circumstances, as well as basic counseling, practical help with benefits, money, housing, health, education and training, social and cultural activities and sign posting to other relevant services. Our refuge is a 7 bedded refuge in total we can provide support for 7 women and 6 children and any given time. Last year on average we supported 47 women and 35 children.
“Many women and children that arrive at refuge come with only basic essentials or nothing at all and often with no financial support or means to finances. The first few days or weeks can be very lonely, isolating and scary for the women and children therefore the radios donated have really help overcome some of these barriers and fears.“
We recently donated a large television to HULLHARP, a network of homelessness centres in the Hull area.
It was great to get this feedback from HULLHARP centre worker Ed:
“The television is in the communal area of one of our supported houses, which has 10 bedrooms and is nearly always full.
“At the present time, we have a number of Polish residents and they have been able to ask Polish-language channels (I’m a bit technically illiterate so I don’t know how this works)! This has been really beneficial because most of the Polish residents have little or no English and so having TV in their own language has been excellent in terms of providing a social focus within the house as well as entertainment.”
We know that supportive social networks are useful for anyone going through tough times, and we’re thrilled that our TV is helping people to give each other support in HULLHARP’s centre. And it’s remarkable how many people can be helped by a single donation to a homelessness centre!
To find out more about HULLHARP, visit their website
We were thrilled to get some great feedback recently from a really lovely beneficiary in Leicester. Mr Brown became homeless after having to give up his job to look after his terminally ill father. He was placed in a hostel and suffers from loneliness and isolation after the death of his father.
But now, Mr Brown has a place of his own – and WaveLength helped him to feel at home.
He wrote to us to say, “After coming out of the hostel system and getting a fresh start, having a TV and licence (with radio) is a real path to the mainstream. You are all great! Thanks – good luck.”
WaveLength supporters are great! We continue to be amazed at your generosity and consideration for people who need a little companionship in their lives. We’ve been hearing a lot lately that our TVs and radios make people ‘feel normal.’ They help people to see their problems as manageable, not a cause for despair – and remind them of the friendly society that’s out there ready to welcome them.
This was a lovely message to receive around Christmas time.
Merry Christmas to Mr Brown and to all our beneficiaries and donors!
WaveLength works with homelessness centres across the country. We recently visited two homes in London run by St Mungos (www.mungos.org).
Julie showed us around the Harrow Road Centre, opened in 1989 in a converted office block. This first-stage hostel is home for 41 residents aged over 50, rough sleepers referred by outreach workers, or those with enduring mental health problems. Some have come from other hostels where the different needs of the younger residents have increased their vulnerability. Many have been on the streets for over 20 years.
“Loneliness is a huge problem”
Many residents, with already poor coping strategies, have lost partners of 40 years or lost their homes when their parents passed away. Loneliness is a huge problem with every client group, from the youngest to the oldest. Residents lack self-esteem and confidence.
“It is scary how self-isolating they are,” says Julie.
The team at Mungo’s addresses this; they do not just provide a home for their residents, they also bring in activities and organise trips out so the residents can engage with other environments, and arrange training so clients can move on. There have been many successes including an ex-service user “who everyone had given up on” helped by St Mungo’s into an apprenticeship, now healthy and with a future.
Some, however, cannot bring themselves to leave the safety of their room within the hostel and for these clients the TV provides a lifeline, an engagement with an outside world that cannot harm them.
We spoke to one resident, Michael, who had been sleeping rough before moving to Harrow Road 4 months previously. He rarely leaves his room except to make a cup of tea or go for a solitary walk along the canal. Having been given a Wavelength TV he enjoys watching the History Channel, with the World at War a great favourite; he is not so keen on the soaps – particularly the Yorkshire accents in Coronation Street.
There is no such thing as “The Homeless”
Every client at Harrow Road is different and is treated with dignity and hope. Five members of staff, including the Deputy Manager have been service users. Each has their own recovery and each brings something extra to the team.
We were also able to visit a St Mungos Registered Care Home caring for a very vulnerable client group, one of only 3 or 4 specialist care homes in London who work specifically with those with long-term alcohol dependency issues. Many of the clients have a history of rough sleeping. In many cases their accommodation has completely broken down when drug users or prostitutes have taken over the building and forced them on to the street. With no contact with family or friends, these vulnerable people are truly isolated until they find a home with Chichester Road.
Chichester Road becomes home to the residents for as long as they want it or have to move on to more specialist care.
Mick, the Manager, tells us “We don’t know what has been going on in the background… sometimes people have just been completely abandoned. Everyone who comes to the home is in crisis.”
A phone call home after 47 years
“The staff are the only people close to our resident and then they start talking about their families and wanting to make contact,” says Mick.
St Mungos facilitated a phone call for a resident who had not spoken to his sister in 47 years and then they were talking on the phone “as if they were talking yesterday”
Comfort and dignity
The staff help the client’s manage their vulnerabilities – accidents are reduced with fewer hospital stays, clients are being fed so are not so emaciated, they are no longer being abused financially. Their dignity is maintained.
Outings and activities help with engagement and cognitive improvement, but some residents cognitively cannot engage in a group activity and for them the TVs are a lifeline. Many need the comfort of their rooms, to have their own environment and make their own choices. TVs bring in the outside world and help engagement within the community of the home.
Main photo: Des, a St Mungo’s resident, was given a new WaveLength TV to bring him contact and engagement with the outside world
“Here at WaveLength, we’re absolutely dedicated to banishing loneliness from the lives of older people and others at risk from isolation. We know what an enormous impact human contact can have on people’s lives, and know that our TVs and radios, which provide constant companionship, are best supplemented with regular visits or other social contacts.
“But I wasn’t happy with Jeremy Hunt’s comments on the “national shame” of isolated older people.
“In a speech at the National Children and Adults Services conference, Mr Hunt, our Health Secretary, said it was “badly wrong” that five million UK people say television is their main form of company.
“I’d never argue against providing more social contact for older people. But Mr Hunt’s recommended strategy for combatting loneliness through guilting families into providing more and more unpaid care for older, disabled or ill family members is an unrealistic and lazy approach.
“Many people have pointed out that a strategy of at-home care provided by the family is only realistic in societies where at least one person in the family – usually a wife, daughter or mother – is available twenty-four hours per day for care. Economic reality in the UK means that these unpaid carers are usually juggling help for relatives with at least one job outside the home. It is unfair to shift more of the burden of elder care onto people who are already overworked.
“Assuming that care is something provided by family also means that those who do not have strong family structures, including people who are childless, will be left behind. Many of the people WaveLength helps, for instance, have not formed strong family and community bonds throughout their lives, and some find this very difficult because of their conditions or circumstances. This does not make them less deserving of consistent care.
“At the same time as Jeremy Hunt’s speech, we have been told that his department is making a U-turn on councils’ responsibility to provide real care and contact for isolated people. No regulations will now be put in place to stop councils from commissioning care in 15 minute shifts, which we know mean that professional carers do not have the time to provide social contact, a chat and a cup of tea with the essential tasks they have to perform such as helping people to the lavatory or warming up a meal.
“Isolation and loneliness among housebound people is a huge national problem. But making hardworking family members feel guilty, without addressing the failings in the government’s care provision, is a lazy and unhelpful way to talk about it.”