Today is World Hello Day, where in the name of world peace, people are challenged to shrug off their usual social shyness and say 'hello' to 10 complete strangers.

At United Response, it made us think: if the power of hello could be harnessed for something as idealistic as world peace, then surely it could be used to tackle other, more day-to-day problems?

Loneliness, for example.

50% of people with learning disabilities experience chronic loneliness. We know that being lonely increases people’s chances of being depressed, having high blood pressure and can even shorten their lifespan.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Here are three common reasons why people with learning disabilities are more likely to be lonely, and the little things you could do to make a difference:

  1. Saying ‘hello’ makes people anxious

    Talking to strangers takes people outside their comfort zone. Add a disability into the mix and too often, people find it easier to avoid people with learning disabilities rather than risk appearing patronising, being misunderstood or – worst of all – saying something un-PC.

    What you can do:

    Try not to over-analyse. Something as simple as saying 'hello' could make all the difference to someone who may otherwise go through their week, their month and their year speaking only to their family, doctors and their support staff. Hello is more than just a greeting: it says ‘I see you - you’re not invisible’.

  2. Prejudice and discrimination

    People often judge others with learning disabilities before they even get a chance to say ‘hello’. Prejudices about what they can and can’t do, and negative attitudes about what they could have to contribute to any potential friendship, can all hinder any chance of interaction.

    What you can do:

    Forget stereotypes and keep an open mind when you meet someone with a learning disability. There is common ground to be found in many things, if you take the time to listen and ask questions. The people we support have passions and hobbies, things they love and things they hate – just like you.

    As for discrimination, it’s often about ignorance rather than outright hate. If you witness prejudice from others, be brave, take a stand and challenge it.

  3. Fewer opportunities to meet new people

    A lot of people with learning disabilities have spent their life being excluded from mainstream society. Many of those who are older than 50 will have stark memories of being shut away in institutions and hospitals. Things are getting better, especially for the younger generation who are growing up with more ambitious and positive expectations, but there’s still lots more we could do.

    What you can do:

    This World Hello Day, help us to organise more social events and activities to get people with disabilities and mental health needs out there in the community. By donating today, you can help us to bring people together to say 'hello', and banish loneliness for good.

Donate now