The Loneliness Radio Project

Loneliness has become a big public health concern, particularly among young people. Teen suicide rates doubled from 2007-2015, more people ages 18-22 report feeling lonely than senior citizens, and globally for the first time ever more people die by suicide than are killed by crime, terrorism, and war put together. For young people, this is one of the hardest challenges they're going to face, if not the toughest.

We felt this topic was important for local journalism since Ithaca is a college town. It’s also a perfect subject for a news collaboration. Cornell, IC, and the City of Ithaca each have their own crucial perspective on this issue. Covering this in depth required multiple news organizations being involved, including college journalists.

"The Loneliness Project," whose audio pieces won a 2019 first place award for Outstanding Public Affairs Program or Series from the New York State Broadcasters Association, was a multimedia collaboration between WRFI, The Ithaca Voice, The Cornell Daily Sun, and The Ithaca College Park Scholars Program. In a series of long-form online articles, audio pieces, videos, and infographics, we took a careful look at loneliness and its impact on mental health in Tompkins County. In Fall 2018, we examined increasing reports of loneliness among young people nationally and what students are facing locally. Engaged Cornell and the Sophie Fund funded this collaboration.

Our project aimed to empower young journalists to explore why suicide and loneliness is on the rise and what we can do to stop it. To address both the problem and potential solutions, student and professional journalists talked to peers and experts, broke down stigmas around suicide, loneliness, and mental health, and found better ways to combat this epidemic.

Illustration: Jacob Mroczek/The Ithaca Voice