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Summit looks for ways to bring CT together to overcome loneliness

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy speaks to a crowd of about 75 people at NXHVN for the Creating Community Summit in New Haven.
Molly Ingram
/
WSHU
U.S. Senator Chris Murphy speaks to a crowd of about 75 people at NXHVN for the Creating Community Summit in New Haven.

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) hosted the inaugural Creating Community Summit in New Haven on Tuesday.

It’s part of his campaign against loneliness, which he has touted as a public health crisis for over a year.

The CDC declared loneliness a public health epidemic after the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said rising rates of self-harm, addiction and violence are caused by social isolation, but it’s an issue that can be solved with stronger communities.

“We can make a choice to build stronger communities to help people come out of this cycle of withdrawal and isolation,” Murphy said. “And if we do so, it may simply be just as important as the work that we do in building economic power.”

The half-day summit featured state, local and spiritual leaders, and two panel discussions with community stakeholders.

The keynote speaker was Bishop William J. Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People's Campaign and founder of Yale Divinity School’s Center for Public Theology and Public Policy.

Bishop William J. Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People's Campaign and founder of Yale Divinity School’s Center for Public Theology and Public Policy.
Molly Ingram
/
WSHU
Bishop William J. Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People's Campaign and founder of Yale Divinity School’s Center for Public Theology and Public Policy.

Barber spoke about the connection between social injustice and social isolation.

“If you add the number of poor and low-income voters that didn't vote, it is 4 million. But why would people not vote? Is it voter suppression? Well, yes, but that's not the only reason. It's that nobody talks to them,” Barber said. “I've heard it out in the mountains of East Kentucky. I’ve heard it in the urban setup. People feel alone and isolated.”

Murphy admitted that the issue isn’t necessarily what one would expect a U.S. senator to focus on. But according to Barber, that makes it meaningful for lonely Americans.

“No matter how broken people are, their souls do have ears. And they can hear that someone cares, they can see their senator fighting for them, and they can see somebody trying to make a difference, and pull us together,” Barber said.

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, who provided virtual remarks, said he believes tackling loneliness is one of the most pressing issues of our time. He credited Murphy for drawing attention to the issue of loneliness.

“We have learned in recent years that loneliness and isolation have profound effects on our mental and physical health, increasing the risk for depression, anxiety and heart disease, and premature death,” Murthy said.

Connecticut officials are tackling loneliness at the state level as well.

Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysieiwcz, who recently launched a statewide campaign to improve social connection, said many of the state’s residents are unaware of different departments' social programming.

“The governor and I will be reaching out to nonprofit leaders, to our local leaders, and our goal is to have a directory of resources, so no matter where you live, you can find folks to help,” Bysieiwcz said at the summit.

Molly is a reporter covering Connecticut. She also produces Long Story Short, a podcast exploring public policy issues across Connecticut.