Norfolk mum speaks out at Jo Cox Loneliness Commission launch in London

Posted by Media team / Monday 30 January 2017 / Press release
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Wymondham mum Camilla Leveridge, 30, travelled to London today with her three-year-old son, Sonny to talk about her experiences of isolation at the press launch of a new national cross-party commission to tackle loneliness.

Colleagues of the late MP Jo Cox have pledged to keep her legacy alive with the help of her family at the launch of the new campaign set up in her name – just seven months after her untimely death.

For the first time, Members of Parliament, policy makers and thirteen leading organisations including Action for Children have come together to expose the growing crisis of loneliness and find ways to overcome it.

Camilla was full of hope about the birth of her son and looking forward to having her first child with husband, Leroy, 25. But after a difficult birth, Camilla had to spend an extended time in hospital and started to develop severe post-natal depression.

“I really just didn’t want anyone around and became detached from my son, Sonny. I started experiencing severe anxiety and panic attacks and really didn’t know what to do when I got home. With Leroy at work all day, I started to feel very alone.

“Then because I knew my depressed feelings weren’t right, I isolated myself even further. I tried to tell people how I was feeling but until I found that person who truly understood, the loneliness didn’t go away.

“After several months, my health visitor put me in touch with Joanna, a social worker from Wymondham Children’s Centre, run by Action for Children. Joanna was so patient, and, slowly over the following months, helped me build up a bond with Sonny and managed to convince me to take him to a baby massage course and socialise with other mums. Bit by bit I started to feel better and it was just amazing to have someone to call every time I had an issue or started feeling lonely or low again. I still call her now!"

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"The children’s centre team at Action for Children in Wymondham is fantastic and don’t get the credit they deserve. The comfort they gave me through the classes and programmes really helped me overcome what was a very difficult time for me. Joanna also encouraged me to volunteer at the centre, helped me build skills and confidence to get back into work."

Jo Cox had taken the first steps towards setting up the Commission before she was murdered in her constituency of Batley and Spen, West Yorkshire last June (2016).

Now members of her family are supporting the campaign led by MPs Seema Kennedy (Cons) and Rachel Reeves (Lab) to continue her work.

“Jo was a doer not a complainer,” said her sister, Kim. “We want to continue that legacy by ridding society of loneliness one conversation at a time.”

 

Initial findings from the Steering Group suggest that:

  • Loneliness is far more widespread and imposes a greater cost on those affected than previously acknowledged;
  • The British instinct to ‘put a brave face on it’ is masking a social crisis that costs lives, damages physical and mental health and causes untold misery;
  • Embarrassment and the fear to this social stigma leads millions to hide their suffering and prevents family, friends and neighbours from offering help and support.

“Loneliness is a silent epidemic across the UK"
said co-chairs Rachel Reeves and Seema Kennedy. “Now is the time to break that silence by starting a conversation. We need a national conversation about the scale and impact of the problem. But just as importantly, every single one of us can start a conversation with somebody that will help break the cycle of silent suffering and unintentional neglect.”

Research by the organisations supporting the campaign shows that more than nine million people – a fifth of the population – privately admit they are “always or often lonely”, a feeling believed to be as detrimental to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Yet two thirds of those would never confess to having a problem in public.

Jo Cox knew this from her campaigning experience and before her death devised a plan to launch a major commission to tackle the issue head on. Now six months after her aspirations were tragically cut short, her plans are coming to fruition.

The cross-party Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness launched today in parliament. The MPs joined by Jo’s sister, Kim Leadbeater, and her husband, Brendan. The launch was hosted by the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, in his official residence.

Supported by thirteen organisations and with widespread support across the political parties, the Commission aims to not simply highlight the problem but more importantly act as a "call to action".

Under the slogan ‘Start A Conversation’, the Commission aims to mobilise the public to help themselves - educating people on how they can become the remedy -- whether it be talking to a neighbour, visiting an old friend, or just taking time to make time for people you meet.

Rachel Reeves said: "Loneliness is all around us and causing all kinds of damage to individuals and to society in general."

"It affects people from all backgrounds - from the bullied school child, to the new mother, to the pensioner who has out-lived her friends and immediate family. And it is not just about being isolated from people in general – many lonely people are 'hidden in plain sight' living in towns and cities, ignored and alone.

But all is not hopeless. In fact, unlike other conditions, you don't have to be a doctor or a trained professional to do something about it. Every one of us can "live like Jo" and help bring an end to this epidemic."

Seema Kennedy said: “Jo wanted to achieve something practical. So this is all about trying to achieve change that is concrete – not just about sitting around and talking about the problem.”