Ronnie Stafrace, 71, had not been seen for several days until he was found dead on the floor of his home. He had lived alone, with only his dog for company. When found, parts of his body were missing, probably eaten by the dog after days without food.
While Christmas is a time for family and sharing, Ronnie’s story highlights the issue of loneliness in a documentary by the Faculty for Social Wellbeing in collaboration with Caritas Malta. It features several experts in relevant fields, such as Faculty Dean Andrew Azzopardi, Andreana Dibben, Marilyn Clark and Nathalie Kenely, from the Faculty for Social Wellbeing, clinical psychologist Roberta Farrugia Debono and Charles Scerri from the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery.
They discuss various aspects of loneliness and its causes, joined by Benna Chase, psychologist at the Oncology Centre Mater Dei, and Anthony Gatt, head of Caritas, among others raising the need for community support.
The documentary also features the testimonies of individuals and the challenges they face on a day to day basis. Charmaine Attard and PN MP Mario Galea both described how lonely they felt while going through a depression, saying they felt no one could understand them.
Old age can also lead to loneliness especially when individuals lack mobility. The experts all agreed that it was important to reintroduce a sense of community. In part, this depends on social policies that lead to communities that really do interact, they pointed out.
In the final analysis, “loneliness is a problem that affects the community and hence affects us all”, Azzopardi said, pointing out the need for collective responsibility and a sense of empathy and support towards individuals going through a hard time.