Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo website.
Over the Christmas period, many of us would have spent much of our time with loved ones celebrating everything the holidays have to offer. Yet, this wouldn’t have been the case for many people who suffer from loneliness.
Over 9 million of us say we are or are often lonely, but almost two thirds feel uncomfortable admitting it. We shouldn’t; loneliness affects us all at some point in our lives. From moving out of home and to a new area, to becoming a new mum and struggling with the change in life or getting older and losing contact with friends and family.
There are small and simple ways we can reach out to others. Instead of walking by, we can smile and say hello to a neighbour or decide to ring an elderly loved one who you may not have spoken to in a while.
Even the #joinin hashtag on Twitter over Christmas, promoted by local comedian, Sarah Millican, showed how taking an interest in another person’s life can be transformative, help fight loneliness and shows how isolation affects many different people.
Two Christmas ago, I backed Age UK’s loneliness campaign in this column and just over a year later, it is important we all recommit our efforts to ending isolation and loneliness in our communities.
That is why I am supporting the Jo Cox Commission into Loneliness, which will be spearheaded by Rachel Reeves MP and Seema Kennedy MP. This commission was the brainchild of our late colleague, Jo Cox, and will be in memory of Jo and her desire to tackle isolation and loneliness in our society.
The Commission will be all about action, rather than being a talking shop. This work is something we can all get behind and come up with ways to address loneliness.
I commend both Rachel and Seema for taking up the mantle from our late friend, Jo, and continuing her work.
In my column at the end of last year, I mentioned that I would be holding public meetings in my constituency to talk about Brexit. I recently launched my Brexit Listening Exercise, with the first of two public meetings this weekend, and the second in February.
For those who cannot make it to the meetings, I have also launched a questionnaire for people to feed in their views to me. The response has been phenomenal, and I am so pleased to see so many constituents engaging with this listening exercise. If you’re a constituent, please contact my office at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0191 417 2000 to get involved.