‘Vicious circle you end up in’

Omrop Fryslân

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NH News

NOS NewsThursday, 13:35

“I used to cry alone in my room every day,” says Sylvia Groen (29). “I felt lonely for so long that I became more and more depressed,” adds Simone de Best (28).

“I thought I was the only one with these kinds of feelings,” Simone told NH Nieuws. And that’s exactly the problem. “It’s a vicious circle that you get into: feeling like I couldn’t talk to anyone about it made me even more lonely and therefore more depressed.”

But the tide has turned. Sylvia and Simone are now talking about their problems. They work as experience experts at De Hoofdzaak, an organization that tackles loneliness among young people in Alkmaar and Hoorn, among others.

More than four in ten Dutch people over the age of 15 felt somewhat or very lonely last year. That is more than in 2019, when about a third of the Dutch had to deal with loneliness, according to Statistics Netherlands (CBS). Other research showed this morning that relatively many young people struggle with suicidal thoughts.

Problem more visible due to corona

“People often think that this high number has to do with corona,” responds Tessa Visser, policy advisor for the municipality of Alkmaar. “But the figures were already significant before that. The problem has only become much more visible because of corona. Fortunately, people have recently become more aware of loneliness among young people.”

Sylvia Groen: “I was already an outsider in primary school, in secondary school I was bullied a lot. As a result, I started skipping school. I simply didn’t want to go to school anymore. When my mother had a stroke when I was sixteen and I took care of her took on, I became more and more isolated.”

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Glad it didn’t work

Anxiety, depression, stress, physical complaints, addiction and even suicidal thoughts: these are examples of where loneliness can lead. At one point Sylvia even felt so lonely that she didn’t want to live anymore. She took an overdose of drugs. Fortunately, her mother was there in time. “I’m really glad it didn’t work out.”

Simone noticed at one point that she became completely detached from society. She couldn’t care less. “And then it gets dangerous. I got thoughts that I didn’t want to be there anymore and I ended up overdosing on my antidepressants.”

Coalition against loneliness

More and more municipalities are pointing out that you can tackle the problem. Policy advisor Visser: “We already started the Alkmaar coalition against loneliness in 2019. Since then, many organizations have joined, such as De Hoofdzaak, which provides training, among other things. Let’s get socialin which young people get to know themselves better when it comes to making and keeping contacts.”

“It is especially important that these young people feel seen and heard and that they realize that they are not alone,” says Daphne Kuin, project leader at De Hoofdzaak.

Sylvia and Simone benefited from the training before coming to work as experience experts. Sylvia: “It was such a relief to hear that I was not alone. Here I found support, understanding and recognition. That is what you need most at such a moment: someone who understands exactly what you are going through.”

Simone: “I’m so glad I’m still alive. I finally experience the light-heartedness that other young people around me always seemed to feel and I don’t feel lonely anymore. Well, every now and then, but at least now I know how to deal with it.” have to deal with.”