SOC327 2017 Tut10 – Mon 1330

There has been intense investment in mental health resources and treatments over the last few decades in Australia. This includes the establishment of initiatives such as the Black Dog Institute, the headspace National Youth Mental Health Initiative (a good program, which I helped evaluate), and recently a multi-sector initiative aimed at ‘Creating Mentally health Workplaces’.

Despite these efforts, however, the expenditure on and costs of mental health issues continue to rise, and the prevalence of anxiety issues in our society remains high. Anthony Jorm, at the University of Melbourne, estimates that around 15% of Australians suffer from an anxiety disorder, but many Australians don’t understand these issues, can’t recognise the symptoms, and tend to dismiss them as ‘everyday worries’. This serves both to downplay the severity and impact of anxiety issues on the national psyche, but also – importantly – obscure the social basis to such emotions. A similar story applies to the experience of loneliness. As Adrian Franklin finds, loneliness is endemic in Australia.

There are numerous sociological explanations behind ingrained, or rising, anxiety and loneliness in our society. Certain groups are at greater risk of loneliness than others – older men for example – but sociologists such as Anthony Giddens and Zigmund Bauman point out the atomising affect of late modernity, where human relations become more individualised, and we become less invested in keeping our groups and connections together. And we are not helped by the way we structure our modern lives. Work is increasingly temporary and fractious, sending us off to all sorts of places, to work all sorts of hours, with increasing precarity. Our cities continue to sprawl into suburban ‘exopolises’, lacking natural social centres within which people can connect and socialise. And our media changes, becoming supposedly more ‘social’, but with uncertain consequences in terms of the exact impact it has on our face-to-face interaction.

The exact alchemy of factors that entrench anxiety and loneliness in modern society is unclear. However, the need to examine these factors sociologically is paramount. Do we need more expenditure on mental health services? Or is this just a Band-Aid solution? Do we instead need to examine, recognise, and cost options for making deeper, structural changes to our social, urban and media environments that impact our sense of sociability and security, and our feelings of anxiety, isolation and loneliness?

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25 Comments

  1. I think with any mental health issue, there is no ‘one size fits all’ fix, just as there is not one answer as to why the prevalence is so high, and what to exactly do about it. I think it partly can be related to the social disconnection and loneliness people feel, created by modern work and urban environments. The work of Richard Sennett credits this to alienating environments, in which the high turnover of people and the standardization of the work place can cause a feeling of disconnect. This ‘stiffness’ creates un-interest, and I think this can be felt across all genders, and ages. To recognize this, creates more awareness and instills the need to examine current social constructs and make structural changes that can help these feelings of alienation, loneliness and anxiety.

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    • I definitely agree with your statement Emily, all individuals are unique, thus mental illness is not going to effect everyone in the same way! This does make treatment more difficult, meaning the more expenditure in the area of mental illness might be a futile attempt to fix the problem, as the expenditure might help with 3/ 10 people suffering from mental illness, but what about the other 7 that are left to struggle to find a way that helps them.
      Thus I think re-evaluating how our society thinks and interacts is a good starting point to tackle loneliness, increase sociability and security and in turn.

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  2. Through the rise of social media platforms in late modernity, I believe that there is an increase in the reciprocal relationship between loneliness and anxiety among society. As generations progress, people have become complacent with real life friendships and face-to-face socialising. However, although these platforms do have the potential to perpetuate such emotions and feelings, I believe they are too easily blamed. We must ask ourselves whether anxiety has actually increased in prevalence, especially due to media, or whether it is just more widely spoken about to the general public, perhaps using these medias as a voice. Anxiety existed well before the rise of social media, thus, the stem is a lot more complex than we can fathom, and the need to delve into specific contributing factors is crucial, before attempting to right the wrongs of society.

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    • I agree with the point you are making about social media. Anxiety and loneliness did exist prior to the rise of social media. I do think social media platforms can trigger disconnect and feelings of loneliness. However, I also think it depends how social media is used. It can actually be really positive and help facilitate relationships and thus make you feel less lonely. For example, when I studied abroad a couple of years ago I used social media, in particular Facebook and Skype, to remain in contact with my friends and family which helped to maintain our relationships and feel connected with one another.

  3. Increasing expenditure on mental health services is a Band-Aid solution. We need to understand the underlying causes and issues (on both a societal and individual level) before trying to treat the problem. As @emilyboland327 mentions above, there is no ‘one size fits all’, which adds further complexity – this continues as we become increasingly individualised. Franklin (2012, p. 19) acknowledges the need for “research that reaches back into the detailed biographies of individual loneliness to explore how loneliness is attributed in causal terms”. We cannot fully address, isolation and loneliness in modern society without first examining everything below the surface.

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    • I agree with both Justin and Emily here. One cannot simply hope that understanding one persons condition means understanding them all. Money needs to be spent on research into the causes, and individual treatment plans.

  4. Increasing expenditure is a band-aid solution as without understanding the why of a problem, we can never really treat a problem. The loneliness people feel, as Sennett explains, can be seen as a reaction to modern alienating environments where no sense of community is developed and people live in their individual boxes. However, loneliness and anxiety have existed well before modern society, so it is a far more complex idea than it seems.
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  5. I think that to just spend more on mental health services with little to no research into what is causing individuals to experience issues with their mental health is a band-aid solution. Nothing is going to improve without more solid understanding of the underlying issues. As Anthony Jorm points out, citing anxiety as an example, Australian’s understand very little about certain mental health issues. I think that acquiring more knowledge about this needs to be the focus before mental health organisations can do the most adequate job.

  6. Increasing expenditure on mental health services such as Black Dog could increase the effectiveness of treating recognised mental health issues such as depression. However this treatment may not be as effective on issues that are not recognised as such by the public. For example someone with anxiety issues may not choose to access treatment due to the prevalent social view of it just being a factor of day-to-day life.

    If we examine social causes of loneliness and anxiety, then we would have to resolve issues with a lack of socialising space, environmental construction and the time demands of the modern working lifestyle. This would be beneficial in the long run but has the downside of being time consuming and speculative until empirical data could change social views. So while, increased expenditure could be a Band-Aid solution it is also necessary until social expenditure is complete.

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    • I agree with you Blake, in that mental health services are not effective for all problems, and often overlook the social causes of such problems. As, Franklin argues: “when people suffer from loneliness they are more likely to think of it as a mental, personal disorder… than to appreciate its complex origins in the social and cultural fabric of the societies they live in” (p. 12). In order to comprehend and manage feelings of anxiety, isolation and loneliness, we must first reflect on the structure of our cities, the nature of social interaction and the production of local community.

  7. In the period between 2014-2015 it was estimated that around 8.5 billion was spent on mental health, which equates to be about 361 per person. The question over whether this money spent is purely a band-aid solution is one which needs to be considered in terms of whether this money spent, was dedicated to the right services. What can be determined from this however, is that there is recognition from the government that mental health is not purely a social issue, that instead however it has greater ramifications for society in terms of productivity and prosperity.

    With the acknowledgement of this fact, there can be recognition that mental health is impacted upon by social, media and urban conditions which impact upon the well-being of an individual. Consider the notion that there has become a rise in one person households due to the cost of living and the prevalence of more affordable one bedroom houses. What these living conditions promote however, is a greater sense of loneliness as these apartment blocks reduce socialising space for individuals. These spaces can be predicted to increase levels of loneliness and in turn this can lead to such mental health issues as depression, alcoholism, sleep problems and personality disorders. It can be acknowledged therefore that the spending on mental health services really does need to address the core of the issue rather than simply offering services to issues which could be prevented in the first place.

  8. As Justin stated previously, increasing expenditure on mental health services is a temporary solution. We need to better understand what is causing these mental health issues, and recognise that one type of psychological treatment does not cater for everyone. As franklin states, ‘people suffer from loneliness, and therefore believe it is a personal disorder’. They are blinded by the societal influences that promote depression and anxiety. By gaining a better understanding of the promoting factors of these mental health issues, individualised therapy and counselling groups can be developed to tackle the rising issue.
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  9. In Franklin’s article (pg. 25) he states “This paper shows how Bauman’s analysis of liquid modernity assists in making sense of the emerging data on loneliness, which is becoming a serious social issue for Australia”. Even with an increase of accessible mental health services (which we have seen in happening over many years), mental illness is still on the rise. The increased expenditure is as stated; “a Band-Aid” solution.
    I agree with Roger; we need to examine recognise and cost options for making greater structural changes to our social, urban and media environments. Our environments are what can potentially create or exacerbate our feelings of anxiety, isolation and loneliness. Without focusing on the bigger picture, mental illness could still steadily increase.
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  10. The expenditure on mental health services is arguably a “Band-Aid” solution that is generally used to fix rather than solve mental health issues. However, it is still a relevant and necessary part of the overall solution. For example, it is required for those struggling now to receive guidance and support. And for those who despite prevention methods may still find themselves experiencing depression and anxiety. Ultimately, I agree with @justinluzriarga that “we need to understand the underlying causes” first. One such cause might be the alienating environments which Sennett discusses as being the trigger for loneliness in modern society. Therefore, I would suggest that a proportion of funding should go to research on this matter to help recognise how to modify our social, urban and media environments to decrease the issue of mental health problems in Australia.

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    • I agree with you that funding towards mental health is a “Band-Aid” like solution used by society in an attempt to fix mental health issues. Although these organisations provide guidance and a temporary solution, most are as you mentioned prevention methods. I support your idea of more emphasis needs to be placed on research of causes of mental health however I believe it to be far more complex than it seems

  11. Although mental health services play a vital role as a support network and treatment for disorders such as anxiety, it is not good enough to just treat the problem. Sociologists need to delve further into research regarding the link between the modern landscape and increased rates of anxiety and loneliness to properly tackle the rise in mental health disorders. This is particularly true within the workplace, with jobs becoming increasingly temporary and fractious, a major cause of anxiety within modern society. As Sennett states, career paths and long-term employment are no longer guaranteed and the rise in casual and short-term employment has led to increased anxiety of disposable staff. It is changes within the modern landscape such as work structure which must be examined by sociologists to tailor expenditure to better improve mental health outcomes, rather than using “Band-Aid solutions” to avoid tackling the real issues.
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  12. Funding toward health services is merely a superficial solution to a much more complex social issue within Australian society today. In order to successfully address the issues of loneliness, anxiety, and isolation, it is necessary to obtain an in-depth understanding of the issue and its fundamental causes and contributing factors. As Anthony Gibbons said, a broad loss of trust in people, replaced by confidence in institutions, is just one example of an influencing factor on the creation or exacerbation of mental health issues. I believe that funding would be better spent on creating positive, safe, and accessible environments and opportunities for socialisation such as green spaces. I disagree with Giddens assertion that therapy in necessary for an individual’s successful functioning in society, rather, I believe that prevention and emphasis on positive social interaction would prove successful in improving the mental health and wellbeing of people of all ages and backgrounds.

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  13. Unfortunately areas of mental health are still taboo in society and although funding has been allocated towards services, it still appears to just be a band-aid solution. Franklin’s research confirms this, stating “the phenomenon of loneliness is still barely visible or talked about” (2012). Focus needs to be on redeveloping solutions to improve the populations mental health, which will take more than government funded mental health programs, instead lifestyle changes may need to be made. As social media has become more relevant in modern society, there has been increased pressure for individuals to show the world they are social, but this may be exacerbating the problem of loneliness in cities.

  14. This is a highly multifaceted issue within our society, and as mentioned by previous comments, is certainly not aided by a stigma still attached to mental health, perhaps more specifically anxiety. I feel that the sense of community that we have begun to lose according to Franklin is able to be curtailed by one’s own choices. Obviously there appear to be correlation to certain features of our lives, such as social media consumption, lack of community spirit and ability to interact with a consistent group. Thus whilst funding may certainly help members of society recover, by making an effort to safeguard our own happiness through our activities and social lives to limit such disconnect with others, we may be able to curtail this increasing trend.

  15. I think that in today’s technological society, there is no one solution to fix any mental health issues as there is no exact reason why or what can be done, especially on an individual level, no one person has the same experiences. I think that expenditure is definitely a Band-Aid solution. We need to focus a lot more on research of causes and issues on a personal and societal level before prevention a nd treatment of a problem can occur which is emphasised by Fanklin and his ideas of loneliness.
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  16. I think that more expenditure on mental health services is a ‘Band-Aid’ solution, but also extremely necessary. Mental health services provide a vital role in creating a support network for those who suffer from mental health issues, and it is important that these services are readily available to the public. However in order to truly understand what is causing these issues and find effective ways to treat them, expenditure needs to be put towards obtaining an understanding of different mental health conditions and what the key causes and influences of these issues are.
    As Anthony Jorm estimates, 15% of Australians suffer from anxiety conditions in any given year; mental health institutions such as the Black Dog institute and Headspace provide an excellent support base for these Australians. However as Jorm sates, there is no clear boundary between everyday anxiety and anxiety disorders, we need to be providing funding for research in order to get answers to question such as this, so these support services can provide improved help and understanding.
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  17. It is becoming increasingly important to find the best ways to treat an individual’s struggle with mental health. By simply applying the same methods to everyone, the problem will not be fixed. It is important that we find a way to de-stigmatise mental illness without glorifying it. By accepting someone with a mental illness, acknowledging their struggles and then moving forward with the best ways to treat them, only then will we begin to see a decline in mental illness in Australia and around the world. Bandaid solutions and simply throwing money at the problem won’t improve it. It’s the whole idea of unmet need. Just because there are systems in place, doesn’t necessarily mean the treatment will be what the individual needs.

  18. While mental health services are important for those who are suffering from poor mental health, this is only addressing the issue after it had arisen. Initiatives need to be put in place to prevent these problems from becoming an issue in the first place, yet very little appears to have been done. The causes of poor mental health need to be addressed in order to decrease its instances, and those from sectors other than health can play a role in this. For instance city planners can create healthy, sociable spaces instead of cramming apartments in every block of land. However the issue here is that they also have to address a growing population, to this extra housing is needed. Different sectors need to work together to prevent poor mental health from occurring in the first place.

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  19. Increasing expenditure for mental health services may be counterproductive. Increasing the amount of services available has the ability to overwhelm an individual seeking help. Raising awareness of how these disorders are triggered and exactly how the effects may project themselves is a more suitable solution. The high prevalence in Australia could be contributed from the individualised nature of these conditions and treatment attempting to be a ‘one size fits all’ solution. Decreasing the stigma behind conditions such as anxiety may also decrease the number of those suffering. Our media needs to change pace and focus on positive news to additionally decrease social anxiety and stigma.

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  20. Unfortunately there is no one fix that is able to aid any mental illness and expenditure is definitely a Band-aid solution. There should be more focus on the research of causes through a more societal and person perspective, rather than a preventive that one size fits all as everyone is different and individuals who have mental illness all experience things differently. We need to examine and recognise these causes individually, rather than stereotypically.

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