Opinion: Friendship is the vaccine against isolation

Image: npr.org

With the continuing impact of Covid-19 lockdowns, many people around the world will be experiencing loneliness and social isolation. This is a time when the incidence of suicide among the LGBT+ community can increase.

We are all having to adjust to new restrictions imposed by the pandemic. This has been particularly hard for those in the process of coming out, which is often a stressful time, or worse, feeling they have to put the process on hold.

Equally challenging is the ‘reality check’ for those who came out, and find themselves in lockdown, without the support they thought they would get from their parents and friends. Others, who have lost their jobs because of the pandemic, have been forced to move back into an unsupportive family environment. Conversely some, having obtained acceptance from their family, find themselves with limited human contact at this very crucial time.

Suicide among young LGBT+ people appears to be on the increase. Regardless of the reasons, behind every death lies society’s difficulty in reading the signs. Those closest to the deceased often say they had no idea. Those who did notice them acting out of character, wished they could have helped sooner.

Speculating as to the causes of suicide may oversimplify the issue. Suicide-prevention charity, Samaritans, refers to suicide as being “extremely complex and most of the time there is no single event or factor that leads someone to take their own life”.

However, from personal experience, and direct contact with survivors over the years, I believe that people who take their own life may feel they no longer hold a place within society.

By removing themselves, they often intend to relieve their community of any social responsibility towards them. This way, no one needs to worry anymore. Yet, again from experience, we know this is not true. There is always someone somewhere who cares for us, who has time for us, and who wants to nurture us. The person taking their own life may not know how much they will be missed.

Thus, with the daunting uncertainties that inevitably come with the start of a new year, in addition to the ongoing coronavirus epidemic, we might see more of an impact on families, and the communities most at risk. Suicide ideation or thinking about taking or planning to take one’s own life is more pronounced within the LGBT+ community, due to social pressures and a society still at odds with sexuality or gender identity.

Since the outbreak of Covid-19, charities and support groups have received a significant increase in the number of calls for help from young and vulnerable LGBT+ people.

Friends are the most important asset anyone could wish for. Without friends, we are nothing. We should do all we can to reclaim the values of friendship. After all, we are social animals who feel safer in a herd, and have a natural propensity to help one another.

Modern life may have sidetracked this natural trait, but now is a time for true reflection. Whether we like it or not, the pandemic has changed the way we live our lives. We are relearning to appreciate the value of small things; a simple dinner with a friend; a call with someone from your family; simply spending time together.

You can help prevent suicide by simply calling a friend, or someone you have not been in touch with for a while. Show them a little consideration by listening and sharing thoughts together. Love to be loved. Friendship is critical.

-Angelo Iudice

Angelo Iudice is founder of Youmanity, a London-based charity promoting the importance of social inclusion

 

[via Thomson Reuters Foundation – all opinions are the writer’s own]

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