Unfortunately there are members of our community whose circumstances lend them to natural isolation.
These are the individuals who are most vulnerable of mental disorders. Aged care residents, individuals or parents of children with disabilities, and indigenous communities are among those who should be prioritised for access to targeted interventional services, programs and change policy advocacy.
The importance of social connections for mental wellbeing is often based on participation in family, community and social spheres.
The importance of family and friends is not only important for foundational beliefs, but their role is more of value to recognise vulnerable members of the community.
The old adage ”it takes a village” (to raise a child) is also applicable in any supportive community of vulnerable individuals.
When I offered the support to my friend to join me for monthly meetings of a motherless mothers support group, it was based upon noticing her non-verbal cries for support and understanding of her feelings.
We were both fortunate to be able to recognise the available support services available and have access to these, however if these are not in place then the importance of carers, families, and the community are more significant.
While we assume that rural and regional towns in Australia do not have all the support services needed to sustain a community with vulnerable individuals, what is interesting to notice in these towns is how well connected and informed of the available albeit outreach services that are available.
In larger regional areas, where outreach services become more common, these connections become more tenuous and access to the supports individuals need can at best be difficult and in many cases, overwhelming.
Other communities affected by isolation are the many Indigenous people, who do not access regular health services, or delay seeking help until problems are severe.
What we need to develop in larger town centres are more community development workers to work alongside the community. The roles they play would be crucial to provide assistance using their local knowledge and contacts.
My experience with Sam the community development officer who supported the motherless mothers group was positive and of value. Not only did she guide us through our group sessions, but also was an identifiable individual to contact for any other motherless mothers in the community.
While it was disappointing the service ceased it highlights the present need to continue the work of these supportive roles in the community.
In promoting recovery for those living with mental illness – supporting them to live the life of their choosing in their community – we must all be aware of the distinct yet supportive roles we play in our village.
This means ensuring we are well connected, we are aware of what each can offer and taking a ‘whole-of-community’ response to mental illness.