Former midwife from Harrogate warns that loneliness could be biggest issue during coronavirus outbreak

A former midwife from Harrogate has warned that loneliness and social isolation could prove to be the biggest issues during the nation's coronavirus outbreak.

Tuesday, 17th March 2020, 3:35 pm

Laura Brett has commended the actions of thousands of selfless volunteers within the town who have already stepped up to offer their support to those self-isolating, but said this strength of community response will be even more critical as the crisis unfolds.

Laura has herself been delivering leaflets door-to-door on her own street in the Oatlands area of Harrogate, alongside other residents, to reassure those who are feeling alone that she, and her neighbours, are there to help should they need anything - collecting groceries and medication, or simply offering to have a chat over the phone if someone is feeling lonely during the self-isolation period.

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Laura Brett has emphasised the importance of the Harrogate community coming together during such a challenging period for the town and the nation as a whole.

And a new Facebook group, Covid Co-Operation, Harrogate, launched just three days ago by resident Susie Little, already has more than 6,000 members, with scores of residents and local businesses offering to perform extraordinary acts of kindness to lend a helping hand to those who need it, including the elderly and most vulnerable members of the town's population.

Laura said: "Isn't it ironic that social distancing and social isolation are actually bringing together the community? You could argue as well that in years gone by, certainly over the last five to ten years, we have actually already been socially isolated - we live in independence, saying 'we can do it, we don't need people, I'm independent, I don't need to rely on anyone,' and actually, the moment we're being told to socially isolate, is the moment that communities are coming together, and I think that's a really great thing.

"I do think loneliness and isolation is probably going to be one of the biggest killers - being lonely and the mental health impact of that could be worse than the virus itself, and I think therefore it's really important that we all combine our efforts and look out for each other and help each other, because it's going to potentially be a long haul.

"It's also made me think that there are so many people in our community who just live like this all the time in isolation, in loneliness. It might make people reflect and think about what it means to be on your own.

"If you think about parents or a couple that are together, at least they've got each other - how many people live on their own and don't speak to anyone every single day? For a lot of people it might be an inconvenience to them to self-isolate, but they will empathise and realise what it's like for lonely people in our community."

Laura said it's important now more than ever to support each other and spread messages of hope, not fear, while observing the government's latest advice and guidelines.

She said: "I think the world's been shaken up, I think life's not going to be the same as we know it for a long time, and I think there are big changes ahead. But I think there are good changes ahead too, I think people will start to realise what's important in life.

"We're a strong community and we can pull through this together, but we all have to play our part. We have to have a message of hope for one another and not be too pessimistic and down, and be creative in the way we look after each other."