Shropshire Star

'Loneliness is sadly an issue for a high number of children': Shropshire health services offer help

To mark Loneliness Awareness Week, NHS Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin has unveiled a new initiative aimed at addressing the issue of loneliness among children in the region.

NHS Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin is urging parents to be aware of the issues.

The 'Open Up' campaign seeks to raise awareness about the signs of loneliness and provide practical guidance and support to parents, carers, and children on how to prevent and combat loneliness.

It comes at a time when loneliness is a growing concern. Research from Sports England found that over 350,000 young people – years seven to 11, and 11 to 16 – said they feel lonely, which the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates to be more than one in nine young people.

A recent survey by NHS Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin revealed that signs of loneliness can be hard to spot.

According to the survey, 22 per cent of parents and carers believed that children spending time alone is the most significant indicator of loneliness.

In contrast, only eight identified subtle behaviour changes like a lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities as being the main warning sign.

Dr Priya George, mental health, children and young people, learning disabilities and autism clinical lead for NHS Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin, said: "Loneliness is sadly an issue a high number of children and young people are experiencing. It can have a profound impact on a child's emotional and physical health, but it can be hard to spot the signs. Children can hide how they feel, appearing happy on the outside, even if they are feeling lonely on the inside.”

The campaign recognises that children often hide their true feelings, appearing happy on the outside while struggling with loneliness internally. Recognising and addressing these feelings can help a child’s wellbeing.

Dr George added: “Changes in behaviour, such as sadness, withdrawal, or a loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities can all indicate loneliness in children. It's important for parents to recognise the signs and create an environment where children feel safe to ‘open up’ and express their feelings.

“Through the ‘Open up’ campaign, NHS Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin want to raise awareness among children and adults around the signs of loneliness, the reasons why young people may feel lonely and remind children that talking to a trusted adult, such as a teacher, a coach, a parent or family member, is a brave thing to do.

"Getting support early on can prevent things from getting worse in the future.”

NHS Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin said several factors can contribute to loneliness in children, "including life changes such as moving to a new school or house, the loss of a family member, pet, or friend, changes in family dynamics due to divorce, being bullied or excluded by peers, past trauma, and socioeconomic status".

It added that untreated loneliness can lead to "low self-esteem, depression, and a sense of rejection".

It said: "It is essential to address these feelings early to prevent a negative spiral. Encouraging children to ‘open up’ and share their feelings is a vital first step."

For more tips and advice on helping children open up about their feelings, visit