“Loneliness is quiet, unpleasant, and full of frightening thoughts”

Eeva-Kristiina Hemanus
Varpu Vuorenrinne, a Red Cross project worker, presents the “Youth to Youth” friend project.
Image: Eeva-Kristiina Hemanus

According to the school health survey of 2009, every tenth Finnish youth feels lonely and more and more young people do not have a single friend. The funds raised during the Common Responsibility for Youth (Yhteisvastuu nuoresta) project, ending at the end of the year, were directed at preventing the increasing loneliness of young people during the last three years.

The Common Responsibility
  • The Common Responsibility Campaign is a large fundraising campaign helping those in need, regardless of origin of birth, religion, or political conviction, in Finland and in developing countries.

  • With the funds from 2011, the Common Responsibility Campaign prevents the loneliness of young people.

  • Read more on the Common Responsibility website

Docent Niina Junttila, who has studied the loneliness of children and young people in the University of Turku, recently wrote in Helsingin Sanomat (1 November) that the loneliness of a child can lead to a feeling of complete hopelessness, when prolonged. According to Junttila, the discussion on the loneliness of children and young people should focus on practical solutions instead of trying to place blame.

– We can, among other things, strengthen the social skills of the child, increase the number of social gatherings, and strengthen the self-esteem of the child through psychotherapy, for example. The most important thing is intervening, says Junttila at the final seminar of the Common Responsibility for Youth campaign.

Institutions such as the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran church, the Finnish Red Cross, the Finnish Association for Mental Health, and the Mannerheim League for Child Welfare spent three years brainstorming and developing practical operation models that aimed to bring lonely young people to the range of help earlier.

The results of the campaign show that early support, developing the personal resources of children and young people, and participatory activities are significant in preventing loneliness The quarters of the Common Responsibility Campaign also noticed that young people participate more easily in group activities – as seeking help is never easy.

Stories, friends, and support from young people to young people

The central actors of the campaign developed many operation models focused on prevention and the strengthening of the resources of children and young people. These models received positive feedback from the pilot groups.

The Finnish Red Cross has organised friend visitor activities since the 1950s, but within the Common Responsibility Campaign, the organisation developed a friend visitor service specifically directed at young people. The “Youth to Youth” (“Nuori nuorelle”) friend service connects a young volunteer and a young person in need of a friend.

In addition to the Red Cross district organisations, the friend service is also organised at the youth shelters that run, for example, the popular music, stable, and cooking groups. The goal of the Red Cross has been to develop new activities based on the needs of the youth: both the friend pairs and the groups plan the programme and schedule of their meetings freely and independently.

“Find Your Own Story” (“Löydä oma tarinasi”) is a group organised by the Finnish Association for Mental Health. The group deals both with experiences of bullying and raising self-esteem, with the young person’s own story as a starting point.

In turn, “A Friend for Everyone”, a guide produced by the Mannerheim League for Child Welfare, aims to develop the Support Student project, started by the organisation in 1972. The “A Friend for Everyone” pilot schools also organised break time clubs for the students, as well as chat groups, allowing teachers and students to chat with each other. These chat groups have received positive feedback.

The significance of a safe adult

A group of the actors of the campaign and politicians gathered on Wednesday, 26 November, at the final seminar of the campaign to consider practical actions to increase youth welfare. Minister of Education, Krista Kiuru,stated she is especially concerned about Finnish children’s and youth’s well-being in school and about the individualistic focus in schools.

Secretary General of the Finnish Red Cross, Kristiina Kumpula, felt sorry for the young people who do not have a single adult contact, and proposed a thought that you yourself could be that missing adult for a young person.