The problem of loneliness and with it social exclusion is affecting the whole of society, from children to elderly people and may aggravate itself during the festive period. The University’s Faculty for Social Wellbeing, in collaboration with Caritas Malta, is concentrating on this social reality with a documentary intended to provoke more research on the subject and the search of remedies for loneliness.
Diandra Cuschieri, a person who experienced loneliness, stated “bullying is one of the main things that makes you feel lonely in the world”.
Loneliness is an almost invisible social scourge with different faces and, contrary to general impression, does not affect only elderly persons but also adults and adolescents.
Charmaine Attard, who also experienced loneliness, stated, “it is a phenomenon which, although you are surrounded by people, makes you lonely because no one can understand you and realize that what you feel is very strong”.
Caritas and the Faculty for Social Wellbeing have identified loneliness as one of Maltese society’s wounds.
In a 30-minute documentary produced by the Faculty, academics, professionals and persons who experienced loneliness offer a context and suggestions on how loneliness is defeated.
Caritas Director Anthony Gatt said, “we care for each other in our families and how to assist our children to develop healthy relations because that is the basis for a person to communicate with other people tomorrow and in the future”.
Dr Andrea Dibben, who lectures on social and work policies, stated that the loneliness challenge needs to be address in different levels. “That is on the level of social policy, of services and strategies; we have to ascertain ourselves that we are working in the right direction by research and a national plan to address the issue”.
Recent figures given in Parliament show that a third of phone calls on the 179 support line were made by persons who needed to talk with someone as they felt lonely.
Faculty for Social Wellbeing dean, Professor Andrew Azzopardi, said that after this documentary they will work on research. “It was our intention that we understand what is happening, then we provide information to the policymakers and the politicians who enact legislation or take decisions”.
Academics said that some of the solutions may involve parishes where lonely persons join together to do voluntary work.
However, on the individual level it was pointed out that everyone should involve his family, especially during this time of the year by dedicating some time to make a phone call or a visit to a relative or friend whom he hasn’t met for months.