NORTH Yorkshire residents have shown their mettle over the last year by stepping up to help others to an unprecedented extent as the health crisis amplified existing problems with loneliness and isolation.

The country will again mark Loneliness Awareness Week from June 14-18, a national campaign hosted by the Marmalade Trust to get people talking about loneliness.

For people of all ages, just having someone to talk to during long and lonely months of lockdown and shielding made all the difference.

Working alongside partners with the voluntary sector, the Team North Yorkshire effort coordinated through the community support organisation network has seen countless prescriptions collected, many cupboards stocked with food, telephone calls made to check in on people, library books supplied and meals delivered to provide nourishment for both body and soul.

Some volunteers found themselves forced to step aside over health concerns as the virus spread but many others stood in to offer their services.

Whatever duties they have performed, volunteers have been highly aware of the importance of their contact with residents even when it has been at a distance.

A five minute chat while accepting a delivery of library books has been a great tonic for some, while others have welcomed the opportunity to get help with other simple tasks, like making sure mail has been posted while they have been shielding or limiting their contact.

North Yorkshire’s head of Stronger Communities, Marie-Ann Jackson, said: “We’ve been living in difficult, demanding and sometimes tragic circumstances for more than a year now and loneliness has affected people of all ages and walks of life.

“Thankfully, the concepts of helping others, showing kindness and reaching out to neighbours were already ingrained in North Yorkshire’s communities.

“People already involved in volunteering have been willing to swap roles and adapt to make sure the right services have been available at the right time, in the right place for those needing assistance.

“So many North Yorkshire residents have gone above and beyond to support people through a really challenging period.

“After months and months of restrictions and limits on social contact people are more aware than ever what the impact of loneliness can be on our physical and mental wellbeing.

“Connecting with others is a great way to reduce loneliness and I would encourage everyone to reach out to a neighbour and get to know the people around you. The best way to reduce the stigma around loneliness is to talk about it.”

As well as the voluntary and community response to coronavirus, North Yorkshire’s Living Well service also offers help to tackle loneliness, using co-ordinators to encourage people to participate in activities around them and become independent.

The objective is to work with those involved, rather than simply providing services for them with the intention of helping to guide sustainable changes which will improve lives in the long term.

The importance of that work is difficult to over-estimate, in a society where it has been estimated one in every two over 75s living alone may go a month without human contact.

In recent years the full impact of loneliness has been increasingly recognised and is known to be a contributing factor in physical illnesses such as strokes and heart disease as well as poor mental health.