On the importance of reaching out

One of the key elements I’ve sought to explore with ‘One‘ is loneliness, and the impacts that being isolated can have on a person.

This is an important discussion to have, an element that’s often overlooked, so I wanted to just put a few notes down on why it’s so important – and what we can do to help.

When my mother was in her teens, her mother – my grandmother – remarried. My Grandma’s new husband was an abusive drunk, an alcoholic who regularly subjected her to anger and violence.

It’s something that’s always jarred in my mind – how, and why, would anyone do this? Why would my Grandma let this man in? I’ve asked my Mum about it and she’s always said the same thing – ‘loneliness is all it’s cracked up to be’.

As noted, the impacts of loneliness are often under-rated in considering negative societal influences. Sure, these days we have the internet, we have dating apps – we have more means than ever before to connect. But talking to someone online isn’t the same as in real life – and the awkwardness and self-consciousness that can come with it. If anything, such elements could be exacerbated by our reliance on online media, which could have wider ranging long-term impacts.

Every day in Australia, eight people take their own lives, the result of more than 65,000 suicide attempts each year. Of course, there are many complexities, many factors involved, not every case can be attributed to loneliness. But many do come down to simply having no one, nowhere else to turn. According to research, feeling a lack of connection to others is one of the three biggest risk factors involved in suicidal thoughts. In addition, recent studies have shown that loneliness can be a bigger risk factor than obesity, in terms of health impacts.

It’s difficult to imagine for most of us, it’s hard to think of there being absolutely no hope, no one else there – that non-existence could seem like a more acceptable outcome. It’s painful, it’s sad. But this is the reality, and these situations are happening, all too often.

But what can you do? As noted, there are obviously a lot of complications, each situation is weighted with complexities that are almost impossible to understand. But you can reach out.

You can ask.

That guy you went to school with who you’ve been meaning to get in touch with again. That girl you used to hang out with, but have since gone your separate ways. Not all of these people will be in danger, but some might, and your effort to re-connect and say hi could be a big step, a big help in reminding them that someone, somewhere, cares.

You can’t take it all on yourself – there are psychological complications that may be beyond your influence. But getting in touch is easy, easier than ever in our always connected age.

And that simple gesture just might be key in providing help.

If you know anyone who you think may be at risk, you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or go to the website for resources and info.

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