A young mother of four has spoken of her struggle with isolation in order to raise awareness for the campaign to end loneliness.
Taylor Pearson, 27, first started to experience loneliness at secondary school when she found it hard to make friends and was bullied.
But it was after she had her first child at the age of 16 she experienced isolation and went on to develop postnatal depression while attending college.
Mrs Pearson, who lives in Whitchurch, Bristol, said: “Things like hanging out in the summer between school and college and meeting new people – it just didn’t happen to me.
“Loneliness is something that, once I realised I was experiencing it, I started to feel really embarrassed about.
“I’m surrounded by children and I’m still young, which is not the usual image you have of what a lonely person looks like.
“But my husband works away from home Monday to Friday and all my kids are under 10 so I feel like I don’t speak to adults much.
“You just feel you can go from one day to the next without having a proper conversation or being noticed.”
She added: “The school runs are the worst, as everyone seems to know each other so well – and I feel completely on my own.
“But I’ve become good at putting up a front. If you looked at my Instagram page you wouldn’t be able to tell I feel lonely.”
Mrs Pearson says social media is a double-edged sword for young people who experience loneliness as it gives a sense of connection, but not in the “real” world.
When she realised she was going through the pain of feeling lonely, she saw other people in her life who were feeling the same.
“I just hope that by speaking out about my own experience I can help other people understand how hard it can be and open up conversation to help those who are suffering in silence,” Mrs Pearson added.
Former lifestyle magazine editor Ryan Child, 28, realised he had an issue with loneliness when, at an industry event in 2017, a concerned friend said: “How much are they paying you for this?”
Mr Child, from Frome, Somerset said: “I was constantly, constantly on my phone – on Instagram, WhatsApp, texting and talking.
“And in that job it’s 18-hour days and you go to lots of events. There’s lots of drinking. I felt terrible, but I thought it was OK.
“I realised felt really lonely. My lifestyle was geared towards being lonely. I would go on holiday with my girlfriend and barely speak to her. I didn’t think she would care about any of the problems I had.
“After that I spent a little time on my own to reconnect with who I am. That’s when the 5asideCHESS thing started.”
He now runs 5asideCHESS, a social enterprise that connects people to each other by using chess as an icebreaker.
They both spoke out to mark the second Loneliness Awareness Week, which is run by the Bristol-based Marmalade Trust.
The growing problem of loneliness has been underpinned by health professionals increasingly warning of the physical harm caused by isolation, including heart attacks and stroke, as well as the mental health toll of being alone.
Amy Perrin founded the charity after she went through a period of loneliness and met an elderly lady who had not had a birthday card for 20 years.
“As a health professional myself, I’ve seen how loneliness can have a devastating effect on people’s health and well-being,” she said.
Loneliness Awareness Week is being backed by the Royal College of GPs and the Jo Cox Loneliness Commission, which the MP set up before her murder.
Kim Leadbeater, Ms Cox’s sister, said: “This was an issue that Jo believed was vitally important and too often overlooked by society.
“She would be delighted there’s a week now given over to helping those who are lonely or socially isolated against their will.”