Russian MP proposes state agency to combat ‘loneliness’
A senior MP of the Russian State Duma’s health committee, Sergey Leonov, has called for the creation of an ‘Agency for Loneliness Affairs’. He cited official data, which shows that over five million citizens are struggling with mental disorders.
Speaking to RIA Novosti news agency on Sunday, Leonov explained that an institution such as this would help people cope with mental issues often caused by “pathological loneliness.”
“We consider the development of tools for psychological assistance to citizens as one of the important tasks. To organize this work, it is necessary to create an Agency for Loneliness Affairs,” Leonov, who is also the first deputy head of the right-wing Liberal Democratic Party, said.
Referring to Health Ministry figures, he noted that more than five million people in Russia are struggling with mental disorders. While only a small number of people are suffering from severe illnesses, Leonov said, more common conditions, such as insomnia or depression, also need to be targeted. He added that residents of large cities are especially prone to mental issues, as many of them live in “office – TV – bed mode.”
“Therefore, primary psychological assistance should become publicly available,” the MP said, adding that the stigma attached to psychological assistance should also be dealt with.
A study conducted in March by the Russian Institute of Public Opinion revealed that over the previous year, 78% of respondents had experienced issues which were difficult to endure without support from other people. Only 9% sought the help of psychiatric professionals, and only 2% saw them regularly.
Leonov pointed out that the position of ‘minister for loneliness’ exists in Britain and Japan, and that they are tasked with “developing programs for psychological support for citizens.”
The UK government created the post of minister for loneliness in January 2018 to tackle the problem, which affects around 9 million people in the country, both young and old.
The move comes one month after the publication of a Commission on Loneliness report which revealed that loneliness is as harmful to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Japan appointed a minister for loneliness last year in response to the country’s first increase in suicide rates since 2009, which was fueled by Covid-19 social distancing measures. Working women and single mothers were listed as the most vulnerable groups, so the government pledged to provide them with targeted support.