New campaign launched to tackle loneliness and mental health

“We are all in the same sea but we are all sailing different boats.”

Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 1:38 pm

Those are the words of Kim Leadbeater sister of the late Batley & Spen MP Jo Cox, as she sums up what it’s been like living through the Covid-19 pandemic.

It’s coming up to a year since the pandemic struck and people’s freedoms were curtailed and families were forced apart.

The Batley-based Jo Cox Foundation has been working on a local level to help people cope with their individual experiences and prepare for better times ahead.

Kim Leadbeater, sister of the late Batley & Spen MP Jo Cox,
Kim Leadbeater, sister of the late Batley & Spen MP Jo Cox,

Around 50 people have taken part in the ‘Community Makes Us’ project where small groups of people were brought together to talk and listen, sharing their thoughts, feelings and experiences.

Kim, ambassador for the foundation, said everyone’s experience of the pandemic was unique to them.

“If you are on your own at home it’s tough,” she said. “If you are a single mum home-schooling three children it’s challenging.

“If you’ve lost your job or, sadly, lost a loved one, as many have, it’s terribly hard. Everyone, though, have lost their freedoms and their human connections and that’s what we wanted to do something about.”

The project provided a safe space for people to talk through issues around loneliness and isolation; mental health and well-being; grief and bereavement.

Groups of eight to 12 people were brought together – young people, people who were shielding, disabled people, employers and older people - for four virtual sessions led by experienced facilitators.

Some groups proved so successful they continued meeting beyond the four sessions.

One of those to benefit was disabled Julie Murphy, 70, who has been shielding since the start of the pandemic.

“The group allowed me to have a voice,” she said. “It made me feel needed again.”

As we move towards coming out of the third – and hopefully final – lockdown Kim hopes people will find their confidence again and emerge stronger.

“While times have been difficult there’s a huge amount to be celebrated,” said Kim. “In every crisis we often see the best in humanity. We saw that when Jo was murdered and we have seen that in the pandemic.

“We need to remember that strength of togetherness that’s seen us through the darkest of times.”