The "Stories of Loneliness" guide for youth reveals young people's personal stories of loneliness and offers tools and solutions for dealing with loneliness. Initially, loneliness can feel like mere sadness. Photo: LEHTIKUVA

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In an era where loneliness is increasingly becoming a pervasive issue across all demographics, young people are particularly vulnerable. A newly published guide, Stories of Loneliness, aims to address this growing concern by providing insights and solutions for the loneliness experienced by the youth. Crafted from the real-life experiences and feelings of young individuals, the guide stands as a testament to the struggles and the silent battle against loneliness that many young people face.

Arttu, a 17-year-old contributor to the guide, poignantly describes loneliness as sometimes feeling like emptiness, and at other times, sheer pain. This emotional articulation underscores the depth of loneliness that can envelop young lives, highlighting an urgent need for effective solutions and support.

The guide's publication comes on the heels of the School to Belong survey conducted by HelsinkiMission, which revealed alarming statistics: 14% of students in upper secondary education report constant feelings of loneliness, with 42% feeling powerless to change their solitary state. The prolonged nature of such loneliness poses significant risks to both mental and physical health, making the issue a critical factor in the wider mental health crisis affecting young people today.

Stories of Loneliness goes beyond merely highlighting the issue; it serves as a beacon of hope, offering tools and solutions through its seven chapters. These sections delve into the nuances of missing friendships, emotional solitude, exclusion, and the impact of life changes on loneliness, employing narratives, poetry, and visual art to explore these themes.

Heidi Rouhiainen, head of the Youth Crisis Point, emphasizes the guide's role in bringing the experiences of lonely youth into the light. "Loneliness is a distressing feeling of being left out and separate. It's like air that others pass by unnoticed. This guide makes the experiences of loneliness seen and heard, while also conveying a comforting message: help for loneliness is available," Rouhiainen asserts.

The guide not only serves as a valuable resource for professionals in the youth and education sector but also for youth-led initiatives. It is part of the School to Belong program, aimed at identifying and reducing loneliness in educational settings.

Contributions to the guide came not only from experts at HelsinkiMission but also from students at various educational institutions across Helsinki, emphasizing a community-driven approach to tackling loneliness. Rouhiainen highlights the importance of collective responsibility in addressing loneliness, suggesting that simple acts of kindness and inclusion can significantly impact reducing loneliness.

Stories of Loneliness illustrates the power of community and understanding in combating the isolating experience of loneliness among youth, offering a path towards more inclusive and empathetic social environments.

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