After struggling with her mental health for years, model and activist Adwoa Aboah is a powerful voice in the discussion about loneliness.
She’s fronted campaigns for Burberry and Versace, walked at Paris Fashion Week for Chanel, split her time between London and New York as a world-renowned face and captured a generation’s attention with her distinctive look and unmovable principles. You might think that someone like Adwoa Aboah would never experience things like loneliness or mental health issues.
However, nothing could be further from the truth: since the age of 14, Aboah has struggled in her battle for mental wellness and it’s something which has motivated her to to try and turn the idea of what is perfect in this online day and age inside out. And she has made a point of using her platform to tackle the issue of mental health awareness, too.
She has spoken candidly about her own experiences with depression and addiction, worked with charities including the Time’s Up movement, Save the Children and Justice for Grenfell.
So, as we had the absolute pleasure of working with Aboah when she guest edited Stylist as part of our 10 year anniversary celebrations, we asked the model and activist for her thoughts on loneliness, and to share a little bit of how it has made her feel.
“It’s so mad, loneliness, because I know so many people like myself who suffered with it and we’ve been surrounded by people, and we’re definitely loved and still it’s this overwhelming feeling, of feeling like you’re the only person in the world,” she says.
Recognising that feeling part of something can help with loneliness, Aboah explains that she’s struggled with community in the past: “I probably always had a community but it was disjointed. Growing up, as you’re trying to establish who you are, sometimes that can make you feel even more alone because everyone’s at different points in their lives.”
This feeling of not belonging was one of the driving factors behind her creation of Gurls Talk, a supportive online and offline community for young women to discuss everything from mental health to sexuality and body image.
“When I founded Gurls Talk, it was a community I think I’d been searching for my whole entire life. I feel so welcome, I feel like I’m coming home every time I get on stage and talk to these girls, every time I hug one of them.
“We spend our whole life looking at our mobile phones and we’re busy, and we’ve got responsibilities and that almost takes us away from what’s important. And what I think is important is being around people, having that face-to-face conversation, that face-to-face intimacy,” says Aboah.
Last year, Office for National Statistics released data confirming that 10% of young people, aged 16 to 24, feel lonely on a regular basis. We might typically associate loneliness with elderly generations, but it’s something that’s effecting everyone, which is why Aboah is urging all of us to speak more openly about it.
“We need to just continue talking about things and paving the way so that others who might not feel confident enough to talk about things see other people doing it and think, ‘maybe I’m not alone. Maybe all this time I thought I was alone, the only person in the world going through this thing and actually, there are millions of other people going through it as well.’
“We’ve got to look after each other, we’ve got to love each other, even harder and even more powerful. For the person who feels alone and lost, you’re not even though you think you are. It’s so hard to, when you’re in that dark place, to tell someone it’s going to be fine but it just is.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel and any sort of strength you can muster up in yourself to pick up the phone and call someone or really tell someone honestly how you’re doing, just do it.”
You can watch the full video above, or read everything to do the rest of Aboah’s takeover here.
Image: Keziah Quarcoo