Stay Connected. Stay Well.

Humans are pack animals. We call them “families” because it sounds nicer, but we need our pack. Social connectedness is one of the strongest protective factors against chronic disease and mental illness. When we are surrounded by our pack, by the people who truly understand us and support us, we are better able to solve problems, withstand stress and deal with loss. This can be incredibly important as we age.

Recent research by the World Health Organization has shown that rates of mental illness in the aging population are on the rise, with approximately 15% of people over the age of 60 being diagnosed with a mental health condition. Speculations are that social isolation is a contributing factor to this rising concern. With our busy lives, longer commutes and absorption into technology, we spend less time connecting in a meaningful way.

Yet even when we do take the time to stop and talk, how well do we share? Mental illness is still considered a taboo topic in many social settings. Something that has been around for centuries is still often seen as something that should be covered up, hidden away and ignored. But ignoring mental illness will not lead to mental wellness.

Consider a friend coming to you and finally admitting that they feel sad all of the time. That they lay awake at night for hours on end because their brain won’t be quiet. That they are scared to go out the front door and have lost confidence in daily tasks like driving or grocery shopping. Would you really tell them that they are weak? Of course not!

Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. It may be a sign that something is not right, but that doesn’t mean you need to hide it away. Most mental health conditions are treatable. A combination of talking therapies and medication can often help people feel a lot better. One of the most supportive forms of treatment is group therapy. Knowing that you are not alone, that there are other people going through this and that there is help available can bring comfort and support in times of darkness.

If you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression there are many places you can turn to for help. Speak to your GP as your first point of contact.

You might also this resource helpful to find meaningful social connections in your area.

Natalie Rowe

 

South Coast Private, Wollongong