Watching people eating together in cafes and realising she had no one to have dinner with is what spurred April Baker to make changes to her life and seek the connection she craved.
The 36-year-old CEO of Together Co, Brighton and Hove’s loneliness charity, was in her 20s, single, and living in a house share with people in London when she realised she needed to make changes for her own mental health.
From the outside she appeared young and carefree, with a successful career in the charity sector and the world at her feet.
In reality, she was miserable, lonely, dealing with daily panic attacks and felt like she was dipping in and out of other people’s lives with no sense of where she belonged.
While working in homeless hostels across London, April’s relationship broke down and one of her closest friends died.
She ended up living on her own in a place where she knew no one, while dealing with grief and trying to make new friends.
Working in hostels she saw the need for connection and community as well as how important it was that everyone should have a roof over their head.
She said: “It hurts me when I think about people sat in on their own and not having anyone to speak to for months on end.
“In our society we are so focused on working with the individual. We need to look at the social element and how we can connect people again.”
Loneliness is something which affects us all, but it is people who are also the solution.
April remembers the moment she decided to move back to Brighton, where she had studied at university, to rebuild a community around her.
“I was on my way back to London on the train,” she said. “I was living in Streatham in an eight-bed house share and working in Peckham and I thought, ‘I am done, I need to be in Brighton’.
“I handed in my resignation with no job to go to and started applying for work in Brighton. I’m not saying this solved all my problems. I had to start again when I moved back to the city but I was in a place where I felt connected.”
People need people
April now works as CEO for Together Co which helps thousands of people in Brighton and Hove every year through its befriending and social prescribing services.
She believes that in a crisis we automatically look for connection, pulling together to help each other out.
She said: “The pandemic saw us all pull together even though we were in a terrible situation. Let’s not lose what we gained from doing that.
“I don’t want us to stop talking about loneliness because of the stigma attached to it. It’s ok to talk about mental health.
“Loneliness is something that affects us all, but it is people who are also the solution.”
If you, or someone you know is affected by loneliness or social isolation, you can find out more about our services here.
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© 2019 Together Collective a Company Limited by Guarantee registered in England and Wales: Company No. 03895574, whose registered office is Projects The Lanes, Nile House, Nile St, Brighton BN1 1HW. Together Collective is a registered charity: Charity No. 1083390