Authors: Nicola Hancock, Lyndal Sherwin, Sharlene McKenzie, Leanne Craze, Susannah Howen, Alan Earls
Event: 2022 TheMHS Conference
Type of resource: Conference Presentations and Papers
Abstract: FEATURED SYMPOSIUM: Connection – An Under Prioritised Yet Critical Determinant of Mental Health and Well-Being
Connection to people, community, cuture, land and nature are all determinants of mental health and well-being. However, repeatedly nation-wide and intenational research evidences that people living with mental health challenges identify connection and belonging as one of their greatest unaddressed needs. The barriers to social connection have been extended and exacerbated because of Covid. Barriers to connection to land and nature are compounded by urbanisation and the impacts of climate change. Despite this, many mental health approaches and programs continue to prioritise individual functional independence over connection and interdependence, and a focus on connection to community, cuture and land is lacking. This argueably western-centric, medical or clinical orientation fails to embrace the wisdom and learnings from Aboriginal and non-western cultures, and fails to prioritise the needs identified both those with lived experience of mental ill-health or distress.
Why is loneliness and the need for connection neglected? Evidence shows that while workers frequently recognise that people are experiencing loneliness and lack of connection, they rarely discuss it or focus on connection within their work. How can we propel or elevate the priority given to addressing loneliness and increasing the diversity of connections that matter to people?
The focus of this symposium is on action and solutions. We highlight the evidence (the need for greater focus on connection), but then engage with the audience and a panel of invited speakers to share and learn together about exciting initiatives that do prioritise connection and interdependence. Invited speakers include Susannah Howen from the Little BIG Foundation, Adam Earl from Safe Space Summer Hill, and an Aboriginal delivered initiative from regional NSW.