The BBC's "Crossing Divides" season, this week's awareness campaigns (Loneliness Awareness Week, Neighbours Week, Refugee Week), and our (Oxfordshire Community Foundation) Community Friendship fund are all coming from the same place and share objectives.
Humans are a social being but we seem to be struggling to connect with people in our own communities. Stats from these campaigns are very concerning:
- Only 5% of people feel very close to their neighbour
- Only 4 in 10 feel connected to their local community
- Three out of four GPs say they see between 1 and 5 people a day who have come in mainly because they are lonely
- Around 200,000 older people have not had a conversation with a friend or relative in more than a month
This demonstrates that our deep need to be understood is not being met. The consequences of this are more terrifying - we are seeing sharp increases in mental health issues and in turn self-harm and suicide.
So what can we do? As the BBC pointed out in their study of talking on public transport, we can all reach out and make contact with our neighbours. Difference in age, race, religion, opinions, and wealth should not get in the way of us finding the common beliefs, experiences and values that we share as humans and members of our communities.
Sometimes we find that exposing ourselves to ideas which may be different to our own a risky endeavour. We believe the community friendship fund can support the charities and community groups across Oxfordshire to overcome these fears, cross divides and build stronger communities.
Crossing Divides is an ambitious season. Throughout the BBC in 2019 we are exploring the power and possibilities of encountering people with conflicting opinions, across divisions of race, class, faith, politics and generation. We’re tackling one of the biggest challenges of our age - polarisation and fragmentation Psychologists have long known we harbour a deep need to be understood. It’s not just about talking. There are many ways to engage with people across the divide. One of the challenges of Crossing Divides is finding ways to help individuals and communities who share common spaces but rarely interact. The ambition is to create more understanding. We may realise we share beliefs, experiences and even values with enemies we feared or strangers we dismissed.