It’s said that the Eskimo language has a lot of words for “snow”. In some respect they do, words for snow on the ground, falling snow, drifting snow. When it comes to Love, in English we have that one word. The Greeks had many, 4 of which are;
- eros a sexual or romantic love,
- philia which is friendship,
- storge is the philia of family,
- agape is unconditional love of all a type of altruism.
Love in all its forms is something we want and desire, it’s a basic human right and a fundamental human need. And yet in the UK and the West, there is an increasing epidemic of loneliness.
But as bad as it is for most people it’s so much worse for people with a learning disability. I’m speaking from personal experience and I have seen the loneliness and isolation that people with learning disabilities (LD) suffer from.
The clients I’ve worked with have almost no social lives, deep friendships or romantic connections in their lives. They have family that cares for them and protects them, but storge is not philia and it is not eros. Their lives lack connection with other people.
The loneliness they suffer makes the challenges they face in life harder. The rates of mental health issues in people with LD is much higher than other people. They are less able to seek help or cope with issues in a healthy way.
Their jobs are often their only real means of connecting to people. The smallest smile, or a kind word, a brief chat leaves them beaming with happiness and contentment. But as hard as it might for people to find work it’s a darn sight harder for people with LD.
There was a time when well-funded charities and councils ran clubs and supported social events for people with LD and other disabilities too. But that funding is getting thin on the ground, those events and social opportunities are getting harder and harder to find. People with LD are getting lonelier and their mental health is being crushed under the weight of that loneliness. That loneliness is killing them.
We all need love, in all the flavours the ancient Greeks recognised. We need to accept that everyone needs love and that people with LD are especially improvised in that regard. The social care system must support that.