Depression and the community article by Karen Plumbe

Mental Illness and the Power of Community

By Karen Plumbe ~ Mental health advocate & educator. Creator and owner operator of Truth Talks.

“What if depression is, in fact, a form of grief—for our own lives not being as they should? What if it is a form of grief for the connections we have lost, yet still need?” 

― Johann Hari, Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions

I was very interested to read Johann Hari’s book on Lost Connections and found myself nodding along as he explained the changes that have occurred in our communities and what that means for people who are different, isolated and experience ill health, mental or physical.

The safety net of community that surrounds someone when they are in need of extra support in their lives for example, new babies, work pressure, loss and grief and ageing have slowly been eroded due to a variety of reasons. Life has got busy for many and time is of the essence, families are separated by distance and at times challenging relationships, internet and social media has changed the way that we communicate, social norms and lifestyle habits have changed, and we have become more disconnected from the natural world.

This disconnection from one another, our own values, our environment and stable meaningful work has created endemic loneliness and isolation for many people. Loneliness has been shown to have similar health effects as smoking, or being overweight.

This very sad reality for many of our community members presents us with a wonderful opportunity to make a difference and create change for the people of the Coffs Coast. There are a number of ways that we as individuals and community can support one another:

  • Find something that you enjoy doing and do it regularly, better still find a group of people who enjoy doing similar to you and meet up to connect and support one another. For Eg, If you like bush walking, find a bushwalking group, if you enjoy dancing joining a dancing group. Not only do these bring great health benefits they provide an opportunity to connect with other people who share your interests. Checkout the notice board at the Happy Frog for ideas, try something new each month until you find the right group for you. There is no wrong just a new possibility or opportunity.
  • Learn a new skill, or find a new hobby. There is great evidence to support the value of learning something new to the health of our brain. When we are challenged intellectually we feel more engaged in life, we have something to strive for and we obtain a sense of satisfaction from mastering something that we previously were unable to achieve. This could be cooking, gardening, wood working, painting, embroidery…. There are just so many options here and so many teachers willing to support you along the way.
  • Say No! and set boundaries. If you are overwhelmed, exhausted and couldn’t possibly fit another thing into your life then maybe this is an opportunity to hand something over to someone else. To allow yourself time to rest, find more balance. Maybe even start meditating, there is a great free app called insight timer where you can meditating. There is meditating there is a great free app called Insight Timer or Smiling Mind where you can take time out for your brain to be calm, to learn how to kick off the relaxation response in your body and find some peace.
  • See a psychologist or counsellor if you need some additional support and to deal with past traumas.
  • Join in one of the many community events happening on the Coffs Coast to meet people, learn new skills and to find what brings you joy.

Connection might feel scary at first but like any new experience in our life it can take a bit of practice, some courage and a give it a go attitude. You never know it might make all the difference.

If you would like to know more about great community events or opportunities to connect, check out the noticeboard at the Happy Frog, sit down at one of the communal tables and start a conversation, join in one of the upcoming workshops or meet up down at the markets on Sunday. Make a phone call today and make a time to connect with someone you know.

You are also welcome to attend Truth Talks: Women’s Stories on Wednesday July 17th at 6:30pm. Truth Talks will be hosting Kim Hodges who is sharing her story of living with Mental Illness. She is the author of two published books Girl on the Edge and Girl over the Edge. You can find out more and get tickets, here www.truthtalks.com.au