By Dr Nina Browne
There is a guy I met in Blackpool. He says the only people he has contact with all week are the bus and tram drivers. They changed his bus route last year. He lost contact with everyone. The number 16 and 2 are well known. They take the longer routes.
I’m a clinical psychologist. I don’t spend much time on Blackpool buses. Maybe I should.
We say that some of our clients are hard to reach. But maybe it’s psychologists and other helpers that are difficult to find. Especially when we spend so much time in meetings, asking each other why our clients don’t show up to appointments.
I was in Blackpool to spend time with Camerados, a social movement tackling social isolation. They create spaces for people to meet, to be with each other. They call them Public Living Rooms. The Blackpool one is in a library near to the sea front. Near to where people facing big challenges in their lives hang out. In the living room they can have a cup of tea, meet and talk with one another. It is a jumping off point for those on the number 16 bus route.
It’s a scary place to be for a psychologist. People are not coming to me. I am going to them. Can I be of any use to them? They seem to be sorting a lot out for themselves. Maybe Camerados is making me redundant?
Or maybe there is a space for community psychology, the sort where we professionals go out into the community and see what we can add to the routine helping that goes on in day to day life. I've learnt more about loneliness from Blackpool buses than I've read in any book. What if we gave psychologists free bus passes rather than their clients?
I am on my own journey to find out. Let’s see where it takes me next.
Join the movement www.camerados.org