I met some more passionate people this morning and, yes, we did discuss deliberative democracy! Cherry and Ruth have come from the incredibly complex, ‘top down’ multi-agency, multi government area of ‘care’ and can see a yawing hole in our social health system. With their new consultancy Life is… they are advocating a preventative approach, which COULD replace our current very expensive ‘curative’ efforts that occur once the health horse has bolted, AND, make use of the wonderful resources that exist in our communities. Much better than popping a pill!
1. Social connectedness helped anxiety symptoms
A woman suffering from acute anxiety and living alone, has her medication and all her daily living needs ‘out on the bench’ to stop her worrying she will forget something or lose ‘important stuff’.
Ruth discussed existing and former community support with her, and actually drew her a flow chart of how she could fit in with current options. The woman decided what she would
participate in. She was hesitant to take the first step to one of these
options, so Ruth offered to accompany her for the first time, and she also tried out some new options.
After some months of this new approach, the woman said to Ruth that she really did need to sort out her clothes, “There is such a clutter!”
Ruth was taking mental notes. The warm, ‘feel good’ mindset that had come with community connection was impacting on the physical symptoms. Much has been written about the mind-body connection and here was corroborating evidence.
2. Men’s Sheds are good therapy
A father of seven was sadly widowed. He did the single father bit and finished raising his brood solo. Then he finished up at work, with the ‘gold watch’ retirement gift, but now he is lonely.
He had been so busy working and raising his kids, who now all had lives of their own, that he had lost all his social networks, or perhaps, his social networking skills had never developed?
Chery listened to his story and to what he liked and didn’t like doing and together they tried Senior Cits, the local RSL and a monthly pub lunch group. It turned out he could very easily carry out the initial steps of making friends, but he couldn’t/didn’t know how to follow this up.
A local Men’s Shed turned out to be the cure. They DO say ‘busy hands – loose tongues’, and this is what happened. Over Men’s Shed manual activities the problems came tumbling out – therapy without a counsellor or medication.
3. It’s easy to develop an unhelpful mindset
Jessica, in her mid 30s, with tertiary qualifications had a strong identity as a professional. She enjoyed working long hours in a middle management role in a multi-national communications company and said she felt empowered, independent, confident, well informed, respected – with a clear role and expectations of the role and very much in charge of her own world (and of the people reporting to her) professionally.
In total contrast her ‘away from work’ life was the exact opposite. Full of conflict, uncertainty, feeling almost out of control, certainly not in charge, depressed, hated to admit it but isolated and ‘stuck’ and desperately struggling to find her feet to rebuild her social life/networks following the break down of a long tem relationship .
To add to the challenge of rebuilding she travelled interstate frequently (and at times unexpectedly) with her job. She’d left her parents’ home quite some time prior to moving into the long term relationship and recently had to move back to live with her parents. They’d recently moved to a new housing estate geographically (and socially) a long way from work and the few significant friends she’d kept following the break up. The design of the estate meant there were no community facilities available or yet built, so residents built their own recreational needs into their own home – home theatres, gyms, pools, etc. Residents had to drive to work, to shopping and public transport facilities which translated into most people living in their ‘own world’ with little contact with each other and little or no sense of community or opportunities to socialise.
Jessica had tried a few things to get restarted. One of her friends was single also, so they went out together to explore the great unknowns…to re-discover where single people of her age group now went to ‘party’ have fun and meet others. Her friend found a community which she loved and became very involved with – a community church offering a great social activities program Jessica tried it some time but said “disappointingly it didn’t suit” her and this meant doing it alone again, having to find the ‘courage’ and enthusiasm to venture out on her own.
In the end Jessica said “it became too hard given all of things stacked against” her so she sought assistance. She said “looking back on it, this was the best thing, wish I’d done it earlier, it got me back on track” as it gave her the opportunity to stop and think, evaluate, explore possibilities and put together a plan. She says she still has an occasional ‘human’ moment but now feels more confident, more in charge and enjoying singledom and a more balanced life.
Great idea – good luck Cherry and Ruth!