Not so long ago, David Crane experienced a breakdown, triggered by the deaths of several people close to him. He moved away for a fresh start – but his feelings of loneliness and isolation moved with him.
Fortunately, David is a different person today. With a little help from the British Red Cross, he now lives for the moment and volunteers to help others look forward to a brighter future too.
“During the difficult times, I felt so lonely and isolated. I didn’t feel I could talk about it to anyone, not even to my wife, it felt like I had no-one,” David explained.
The 55-year-old started feeling lonely after enduring multiple bereavements. The death of his father escalated these feelings further.
“He died on Friday 13th so even to this day I hate that date,” David said.
“It was November, so around that time every year I would go quiet. I started feeling more and more disconnected. He never goes away, I miss him and I still speak to him every day and every night.”
The resulting breakdown David experienced meant he had to eventually give up his job. He sought out a fresh start by moving to Devon, hoping to leave the past behind.
But David had underestimated how difficult it would be to integrate into his new hometown of Paignton. He started to feel increasingly isolated.
“I didn’t know anyone in Devon, I didn’t have a job, I wasn’t doing anything. I was lonely and bored – it really got me down,” David said.
David visited his local general practice to find out what support was available to him – but it was while in the waiting room that he came across an advert for a local project run by the Red Cross.
Known as Torbay Navigators, the project was aimed at people just like David who were facing a crisis or turning point in their lives and had little or no support from family or friends.
He called the number and was put in touch with Kevin, a local Red Cross volunteer. David explained how volunteers like Kevin have changed his life.
“Kevin helped me through some really dark times. He just listened to me and knew what buttons to push to make me take control over my life,” David said.
“He gave me suggestions on ways I could get out of the house and socialise with other people.”
With Kevin’s support, David was able to take control of his life once more – one step at a time.
“I still have bad days, but now I take each day on its merits. I can’t say it’s been easy because it hasn’t,” David said.
“It’s taken me 55 years to realise you can’t take life too seriously – you need to get out of the house and socialise with people, live your life. That’s what Kevin helped me to see. There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.”
David was so inspired by the support he received, he has now registered to become a Red Cross volunteer himself.
“Now I try to look forward and don’t dwell on the past. You can’t dwell on the past. I’ve noticed such a difference with my life and I want to give back,” David said.
He has already supported colleagues at work who have been going through bereavement and family issues.
“I listen to them and suggest things they could do to help themselves – like walking football,” David said.
The loneliness epidemic in the UK
An in-depth study by the Red Cross, in partnership with Co-op, has revealed epidemic levels of loneliness and social isolation in the UK.
Over nine million people in the UK (almost one fifth of the population) report they are always or often lonely
Life transitions, like those experienced by David, can be key triggers for loneliness. And without the right support, it can transition from a temporary situation to a chronic issue that affects people’s health.
In 2017, the Red Cross will launch new services funded by Co-op to reach more than 12,000 adults experiencing loneliness and social isolation over the next two years.
We’re also part of the recently launched Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness where MPs, policy makers and thirteen leading organisations have come together to expose the growing crisis of loneliness and find ways to overcome it.
And David knows only too well what it means to reach people experiencing loneliness.
“If someone is lonely, it’s better to catch it early before it develops into something worse like a mental illness,” he said.
“Nine times out of ten, all people want to do is talk to someone if they are lonely. You need to nip it in the bud early – prevention is better than cure.”
- Find out more about our work around loneliness and isolation
- Find out more about the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness
- Join people like David and volunteer to help others in your local area
This blog was updated on 31 January 2017