26-Year-Old Joey Fry's Mission to End Loneliness Epidemic - Hope 103.2

26-Year-Old Joey Fry’s Mission to End Loneliness Epidemic

"‘There’s been an accident you’ve lost your leg’", Joey Fry's tragedy leads to exploration of loneliness in 'The Great Separation'.

By Laura BennettWednesday 1 Nov 2023Hope AfternoonsMoviesReading Time: 3 minutes

Warning: This article contains mentions of suicide. If you or someone you love needs help, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Although the experience of loneliness existed well before covid lockdowns and remote working were commonplace, on this side of the pandemic we’re acutely aware of the consequences of isolation, and how deeply it’s being felt.

According to a 2022 report from Relationships Australia 23.9 percent of the country’s population exhibit symptoms of loneliness and almost half (45.9 percent) of young people aged 18-24 are emotionally lonely.

Interestingly, despite the prevalence of loneliness, the report also uncovered a resistance to seek support – especially among men who largely chose to deal with their concerns alone.

Newcastle plasterer and businessowner Joey Fry was 23 when he confronted loneliness on a grand scale.

In 2019, a rough breakup sent him into a self-destructive 6-month spiral which culminated in a Christmas Eve suicide attempt. Days later Joey woke up in the ICU, alive, but learning that the incident physically changed him for life.

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“My mother’s standing at the foot of the bed and in [my] medical drug haze, I’ll never forget it, she said, ‘Sweetheart there’s been an accident and you’ve lost your leg’.” Joey told Hope 103.2.

“That was the most heartbreaking sentence I’ve ever had to hear. [I felt] all of these emotions on the most extreme scale: guilt, and shame and anger.

“I had to learn my new identity in this world as a young man with a disability.”

Joey also realised it was his inability to reach out to those around him that got him into such a dark headspace in the first place.

“Looking back at that 6 months now, I can see that I was suffering from severe loneliness,” Joey said.

“It took a really tragic event in my life to realise the connections that I did have in my life, with my friends, my family and my community.”

Joey’s story features in the new SBS documentary The Great Separation, where he uses his recovery journey to explore society’s issues with loneliness and connection, guided by experts along the way.

One of the experiments Joey participated in, was to set up a sign that read, ‘Feel like a chat?’ alongside a park bench and wait for passersby’s to take up the offer.

“For every 100 people that walked past me, maybe one or two would stop,” Joey said.

“It opened my eyes to the state that we’re in as a community.”

A lot of us prioritise ease over connection.

To anyone who’s in a state of loneliness, Joey believes it’s key to “look to the connections that you have and voice your opinion and your feelings”.

“We’ve built our lives in this day and age [around] everything being convenient,” Joey said.

“But it’s becoming a very individual pursuit in the way that we do things.”

To anyone who’s in a state of loneliness, Joey believes it’s key to “look to the connections that you have and voice your opinion and your feelings”.

“Admitting the state you’re in is completely OK,” Joey said.

“We all have these emotions [but] when you retract and keep things to yourself it just never works out.”

Choosing to become an advocate for mental wellbeing – and now training to represent Australia as a paralympic skier – Joey has a newfound fire for cultivating social connectedness.

“After I lost my leg, I didn’t pass away that day for a reason,” Joey said.

“I never knew what that reason was until the documentary presented itself.”

The Great Separation is available now via SBS On Demand.

Listen to Joey’s full interview in the player above.

If you or someone you know need mental health assistance, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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