UK establishes Minister of Loneliness

The United Kingdom, currently isolated from the European Union, has decided to tackle the issue of loneliness and isolation within its borders.

On Jan. 17, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May appointed the former Minister of Sport and Civil Society, Tracy Crouch, to the position of Minister of Loneliness.

Initially not an official commission in British Parliament, this position finds its roots in the work of the late Jo Cox, a former member of the parliament. Cox was murdered on June 16, 2016 by Thomas Mair, who was connected to organizations that opposed her political views.

During her lifetime, Cox advocated for many policies, including the protection of refugees, civilians in conflict and social isolation in the U.K. Cox’s aspirations are now carried out through the Jo Cox foundation.

“Jo Cox recognized the scale of loneliness across the country and dedicated herself to doing all she could to help those affected,” said May during Crouch’s appointment.

During her appointment, Crouch expressed gratitude for being chosen to continue Cox’s work.

“This is an issue that Cox cared passionately about, and we will honor her memory by tackling it,” said Crouch. “(This will be) helping the millions of people across the U.K. who suffer from loneliness.”

Though some may question the creation of the position, May cited the widespread nature of social isolation in the U.K.

“For far too many people, loneliness is the sad reality of modern life,” said May during Crouch’s appointment.

According to the Jo Cox Foundation and the British Red Cross, approximately 9 million adults in the U.K., roughly 14 percent of the population, often or always feel lonely.

The effects of loneliness and isolation pose serious physical and mental health threats, some of which significantly change one’s life for worse.

“Depression, anxiety and so forth, and those have physical ramifications as well,” said Associate Professor of Psychology Sarah Estow. “But there are also direct, tangible physical effects of isolation. For example, if someone is isolated, they may not be able to go to the doctor by themselves, and there’s no one to notice if they need to go.”

Depression, one of the most prevalent issues in modern society, can be caused by multiple factors, with loneliness and isolation being major underlying causes. As a result, promoting mental health is becoming more vital every day.

“I think improving overall mental health is especially important everywhere, given that teenagers currently are prone to depression,” said Early College student Sophia Hazlett.

One factor promoting loneliness and social isolation is now a necessity for most, the internet.

“We have social media and have family members who would eat and stare at their phone,” said senior Risuin Ksor. “People would not try to interact with people around them … the world is changing very rapidly thanks to the internet.”

Ksor believes that a program similar to U.K.’s Minister of Loneliness would be one worth considering.

“I like this idea that they’re doing,” said Ksor. “And this sense of initiative so that people can have a sense of community wherever they go.”

On the other hand, some students are skeptical on what kind of impact a similar program would make.

“I feel like it can help in some ways,” said first-year Taylor Tucker. “Or it could make it worse, or not help at all.”

Nonetheless, we still face the issue of social isolation. Although the U.S. does not have a Minister of Loneliness, there are still actions students in the country can take to tackle this problem.

One student’s idea on how to tackle loneliness in our community is to initiate conversation.

“I think definitely a great way to start is starting to talk about it,” said prospective student Martha Thompson. “I think that once it gets out in the open and is established that it is an issue that needs to be addressed. I think that’s the first step in coming up with solutions.”