Chris Frederick, a member our Programme Advisory Group, reflects on his own experience of loneliness and isolation and his journey with the Campaign. 

A twin’s take on isolation

Being a twin, you’d think loneliness wouldn’t be an issue. But here’s the thing – it was. From a young age, I felt like a square peg in a round hole. Inner London, where I grew up, there was a vibrant Black community. Then, bam! At 11, we moved to a mostly white town in Kent. That feeling of displacement has never left me.

Fast forward to my 30s, and I’m in Asia, another culture shock – a Black man in a whole new world. Finally, after nearly 20 years, I return to London. But guess what? It felt foreign again. Here I was, back ‘home’ yet completely out of sync.

This battle with loneliness started young, but I hid it behind a mask of popularity. Even now, in my 50s, I must admit – the need to be seen and belong has been a huge driver for me. Maybe it stems from childhood trauma and a fractured family. Who knows? My story is unique. Moving between cultures and facing racial barriers shaped my experience with loneliness. It’s deeper than just being alone. It’s the constant feeling of being an outsider, even when surrounded by people.

Take secondary school in Kent. Colin and I, the only two Black kids in a school of hundreds, stuck out like sore thumbs. To make things worse, we drifted apart, leaving me utterly alone. Rugby became my solace. But it wasn’t all sunshine and tries. The fear of being found out about a childhood issue, bedwetting, fuelled my anxiety. Imagine a first rugby tour, terrified of having an accident. Three sleepless nights of pure dread! Even now, it makes me cringe. But hey, honesty is key, right? Despite the anxiety, the camaraderie on the team was a saving grace. There was a sense of belonging on the pitch, a shared goal that transcended our differences. Even today, catching up with old teammates reminds me of that feeling of acceptance, even if fleeting.

My Journey with the Campaign to End Loneliness

The isolation I felt after a major life change left me feeling adrift. It was then that I discovered the Campaign to End Loneliness on LinkedIn and began advocating for their work which resonated deeply. Loneliness wasn’t a statistic for me; it was a lived experience. So, when they invited me to become a Program Advisory Group (PAG) member, directly contributing to the fight against loneliness, I jumped at the chance.

Loneliness is a universal experience, but it doesn’t have to be a permanent one. It can strike anyone at any age and impact your health too. The good news: loneliness doesn’t have to be forever. Organisations like the Jo Cox Foundation are carrying the torch. Whether it’s social media isolation or the challenges faced by older adults, there’s help out there. By reaching out, building bridges, and creating strong communities, we can make connection the norm, not the exception.

There is a word in South Africa – Ubuntu – a word that captures Mandela’s greatest gift: his recognition that we are all bound together in ways that are invisible to the eye; that there is a oneness to humanity; that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others and caring for those around us.

A touch of hope

Sadly, my time with the Campaign has only lasted nine months, not enough time to make the impact that I had envisioned. While The Campaign to End Loneliness is closing its doors, the work continues. By working together, we can build a society where everyone feels valued, connected, and supported. Let’s honour the legacy of the Campaign to End Loneliness by making connection a priority.