SOC327 2017 Tut10 – Wed 1530

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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20 Comments

  1. We do not need more expenditure on mental health services. I agree that we do we instead need to examine, recognise, and cost options for making deeper, structural changes to our social, urban and media environments.

    If we look to the past social connections were made through other community activities that perhaps don’t exist today. Most children once participated in sports and many families attended some kind of place of worship. While I don’t advocate for any particular religion I do believe that these kinds of social circles can go a long way to helping to warn off loneliness. Although these activities can still create gendered loneliness such as ‘soccer moms’, creating a new circle of friends, it may still be more beneficial than being isolated.

    Another thing that came up for me from the lecture was the way most discuss cafes and areas to hang out as important to feeling less lonely. The worrying thing for me is that in all of the new areas of development, such as edge cities, seem to place large shopping centres as the place to congregate. I feel that this could contribute to loneliness and anxiety as they are dependent on having money to participate. Urban planning and social policies in this instance are aimed at income earners who have funds to spend on socialising, whereas in the past community events or church services did not exclude those with less.

  2. I agree that more expenditure on mental health services is a Band-Aid solution to the underlying structural issues of our society. Whilst these services are integral to society and extremely important for many people, instead of aiming to fix the effects of the problem there needs to be more examination and recognition of the issues causing the problem. Jorm (2015) shows that most Australians don’t recognise mental health issues as actual disorders and brush things off as typical to everyday life. I think greater awareness and recognition of mental health issues would be a good starting point at getting people to think more deeply about what is causing these issues in our society. Franklin (2012) argues that the transforming nature of our relationships is causing loneliness as social interaction becomes more fluid and less stable. This transformation of how we relate to each other may be a reason for why mental health issues are so prevalent and requires an examination of how the digital age and consumption of mass and social media is affecting us. I believe that the ease of and reliance on digital connections is degrading the value and importance of face to face connections. It has been suggested that communication of attitudes and feelings can be broken down into three areas: words, tone, and body language. Words (what is actually said) is thought to make up only 7% of communication with tone (how it is said) 38% and body language, 55% (Mehrabian 1971). With this in mind its reasonable to conclude that face to face interaction is more valuable to us as we often communicate in mostly nonverbal ways. Online, all that is communicated is words. Prioritising authentic, in person interaction and spending less time online might be an important strategy in combatting anxiety and loneliness. Personally, I often have to go on social media ‘detoxes’ when I find myself becoming too attached and negatively affected by social media. During these detoxes I quit social media for about a week, which helps my mental health as I refocus on ‘real’ life. Doing this every once in a while ensures I can still enjoy the benefits of social media whilst also helping me to manage the negative effects of it that can cause anxieties and loneliness.

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  3. Chronic loneliness has been labelled as a Modern-Day Epidemic. We are not designed to be solitary people. It is important we interact with others. Loneliness, which is perceived social isolation can inadvertently lead to depression. Loneliness is bad for your mental health as well as physical health – increasing the odds of an early death. Early intervention and ongoing attention and care is required as there is no quick fix.
    Social networking has replaced the face-to-face connections of yesteryear. Relationships are formed and replaced too easily today as a result of dating websites like Tinder and eHarmony with the outcome being close ties are not formed. This is in agreement with Franklins’(2012) argument that social interaction is becoming less stable.
    Our aging citizens are also affected by loneliness as their ability to get out and socialize with friends’ decreases as they age and are no longer able to drive. Many of them are also unable to use modern gadgets like mobile phones, laptops and ipads which restricts their communication with others.
    Turning to pharmacological solutions for a temporary fix to loneliness and depression does not seem like the ideal choice. Identifying and addressing the cause in the rise of loneliness and making changes to the environment that impacts ones’ sense of sociability and security seems like a more productive route to follow to see long term benefits.
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  4. Mental health expenditure may be a band aid solution, and instead we 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.

    Not only this, but awareness needs to be spread, and opportunity made for individuals to form relationships that are of quality instead of having a large social pool. Franklin (2012) points to Bauman’s theory of liquid modernity, taking aim at the individualised culture of of relationships. This may be why cities report more counts of loneliness. Individuals are surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people but lack the quality relationships to form proper bonds. This is due to our likelihood to avoid relationships that do not meet our set of criteria or sense of timing. This is also emphasised with current technological advances and social media.

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  5. As a society, we need to look at the structural reasons attributing to feelings of isolation, anxiety, depression, and loneliness. To do this we can begin by examining how social connections are made within the social sphere in which we live. As Franklins argues, this cannot be achieved without addressing new technologies.

    In response to this I argue that social media is detrimental to connectedness. Although it allows for previously unimaginable global social connections, it also works against establishing relationships, as it erases the need to utilise our bodies within social situations. As body language, tone, and facial expressions, may be absent in some technological aided social situations, meanings can be lost. For example, emoji’s may be taken to mean something other than intended.

    Social media also allows people able to hide behind false identities, thus creating the feeling that connections are largely superficial. For example, I may comment or like a post from a friend on Facebook, yet if I saw that person in the street I may feel uncomfortable in offering that same complement in person. However, I have friends that I would rather complement face to face.

    So, is my Facebook comment genuine or pretence? Does social media really allow me to connect? Or rather, does it create social ‘awkwardness’ in person?

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  6. Contemporary society has evolved to what Giddens and others describe as late modernity. Society has moved away from what we traditionally understand about human connection, love, relationships, loneliness, and mental health.

    When looking at the nature of society today, one can see how it propels certain aspects associated with how we experience our lives and connect (or disconnect) to others. Bauman talks about this in how post-modern society is focused on the avoidance of things that are fixed; instead people make sure that there are options they should always be open to. In a world full of options which are constantly propelling a ‘liquid’ state of life, it prompts a question about how our society provokes emotions like loneliness and anxiety.
    The study of cities and urban landscapes helps to inform this topic. Cities are the centres of capitalism, consumerism, business and all other forces of society. Kelly et al. (2012) propose the linkage of unhealthy emotions to unsocial cities. They state that cities should be made more sociable with things such as improved public spaces with parks and cafes. Cities can exemplify the liquidity of modern life, and Kelly et al. provide thought into ways we can create change.

    Should we structure our lives and our cities differently?

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  7. I feel as if different solutions may work on different people,maybe it would be wise for more expenditure on mental health services as they appeal to a certain group, things like media may also appeal to a younger social group, it will always vary for an individual. Although because social media is becoming more and more popular and more social and different age groups, this may be considered as something that is contributing to a decline in social connections as suggested by Franklin, but maybe it is a different type of social interaction?

    I know by having Facebook, instagram, snapchat etc when i interact with my friends via social media i get a different feel to when i see them in person, but i would still classify it as a social interaction, but i would feel almost a sense of loneliness if i had posted something on one of my social media platforms and not gotten a response, could this be the same for people in cities and suburban areas?

    I think it again depends on the individual and their social bonds surrounding them, possibly someone who is used to living in a busy city who then moves to a quiet suburban town may feel lonely due to having so much stimulus on a day to day basis in a busy city to not having much happening around them – it was mentioned that cities should be filled with things like parks and cafes to place a social emphasis on the town to reduce anxiety and loneliness, again i think it depends on the individual to whether they are affected or not.

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  8. The lecture for this topic in particular highlighted how much money Australians spend on mental health services. In February 2016, this total reached $8 billion. Perhaps the focus needs to be directed towards developing a deeper understanding of emotions such as loneliness, anxiety, and isolation. Being in a city can allow individuals to develop the necessary skills for interacting with strangers (Sennett 2000). Individuals could be receiving great support from family and friends and still experience feelings of loneliness (Franklin 2012, p. 13). Perhaps we could argue that loneliness is more about how we live rather than where we live and that this is one example of the complexity surrounding the causes of feelings such as loneliness, anxiety, and isolation.

    Reference List

    Franklin, A 2012, ‘A lonely society? Loneliness and liquid modernity in Australia’, Australian Journal of Social Issues, vol. 47, no. 1, pp. 11-28.

    Sennett, R 2000, ‘The New Statesman Essay – Cities without care or connection’, New Statesman, 5 June, viewed 16 May 2017, http://www.newstatesman.com/node/151415

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  9. With Australia climbing to second place in the world ranks of anti-depressant prescriptions (Davey, 2016) the social conditions and contextual influences in which mental illness is cultivated must be considered in order to help decrease their severity. In comparison to previous generations, we now live increasingly individualised lives which Franklin (2012) attributes to the “destruction of stable, mappable social identities that had once been anchored by social class and occupational cultures” (Franklin, 2012, p17). Franklin (2012) argues that major changes in family, marriage, partnerships, and neighbourhoods all play a role in the growing sense of loneliness found in modern Western societies. Additionally, Giddens argues that with this shift from traditional lifestyles comes a loss of trust in people. Both theories imply that loneliness, and subsequent feelings of anxiety and depression, are influenced by cultural norms. Reducing the endemic state of loneliness in modern societies is complex as many of the risk factors are so heavily embedded within societal norms and expectations.

    References
    Davey, C 2016, ‘Antidepressants May Not Be As Effective As We Thought, and Shouldn’t Be The Only Treatment For Depression’ The Conversation

    Franklin, A 2012, ‘A Lonely Society? Loneliness and Liquid Modernity in Australia’, Australian Journal of Social Issues, vol. 47, no. 1, pp. 11-28.

  10. With Australia climbing to second place in the world ranks of anti-depressant prescriptions (Davey, 2016) the social conditions and contextual influences in which mental illness is cultivated must be considered in order to help decrease their severity. In comparison to previous generations, we now live increasingly individualised lives which Franklin (2012) attributes to the “destruction of stable, mappable social identities that had once been anchored by social class and occupational cultures” (Franklin, 2012, p17). Franklin (2012) argues that major changes in family, marriage, partnerships, and neighbourhoods all play a role in the growing sense of loneliness found in modern Western societies. Additionally, Giddens argues that with this shift from traditional lifestyles comes a loss of trust in people. Both theories imply that loneliness, and subsequent feelings of anxiety and depression, are influenced by cultural norms. Reducing the endemic state of loneliness in modern societies is complex as many of the risk factors are so heavily embedded within societal norms and expectations.

    References
    Davey, C 2016, ‘Antidepressants May Not Be As Effective As We Thought, and Shouldn’t Be The Only Treatment For Depression’ The Conversation

    Franklin, A 2012, ‘A Lonely Society? Loneliness and Liquid Modernity in Australia’, Australian Journal of Social Issues, vol. 47, no. 1, pp. 11-28.

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  11. Mental health care is supported in a variety of ways within the modern age of society. Options such as, “…psychological, medical and lifestyle treatments can effectively treat various anxiety disorders” (Jorm 2015). However, these treatments involve participants to be extremely committed over a longer period of time and can become very costly. Other approaches to health care, such as free internet-based services, yoga, self-help books, relaxation training, and yoga, can be cheaper and affective alternatives to medication or psychological help (Jorm 2015). Highlighting how health care does not have to be an expensive cost to improve health care issues within Australia. However, expenditure spent within mental health resources may be better used in other areas of structural changes to community’s social and urban environments. As well as, developing strategies that could influence positive change within the media to promote the well being of mental health. Which would, in turn, impact an individual’s micro level of sociability, security within their environments, and could improve feelings of anxiety, isolation and unprecedented levels of loneliness felt by many Australians today (Franklin 2008, p.1).
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  12. I don’t think we really need to spend more funding on mental health issues without figuring out firstly, why the issue remains so prevalent in society. I think a re-evaluation as to why there is a negative stigma placed upon the heads of individuals whom hold certain mental issues. As for the city design and layouts, it would become a lot more sociable if there was an actual communal centre which would welcome all individuals, and create an area which had the feeling it was social.

    If we could create a better clarity as to what anxiety made individuals felt on main stream media, maybe we would see a shift in the attitude which disregards it.
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  13. I think that adding more funds to creating mental health services is a band-aid solution, especially when it is recognised that many Australia’s don’t even realise they are experiencing anxiety and warn it off as an ‘everyday worry’. It’s hard to create awareness for something people don’t know they have or don’t understand. While you can inform people of the symptoms of many of these issues everyone is different and reacts and responds to things in different ways and therefore will be unable to recognise the symptoms in themselves.

    Changing the structure of the social, urban and media environments, I think will have little impact. It could be beneficial in providing people with a space to hang with friends but in terms of creating friends might not have much of an impact. This is due to the fact that it has been noted that loneliness is based on the quality of an interaction not the quantity of them. It’s like the old saying ‘you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink’. You can redesign the city to make it easier for people to interact but at the end of the day you can’t force them to have good quality interaction.

    Perhaps instead of jumping in and trying to find a solution to loneliness in the quickest way possible we should instead be contenting to do more research on how people make friends and what people consider to be good friends and see from there what will help.

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  14. As Richard Sennett states in a city we can live with strangers as today, many neighbours do not bother to find out the names of the people living next door to them. Cities contain all the resources in comparison to villages and you have many more social interactions in the city. However, if you are busy with work or with your education, people may feel lonely in a city, even though they may be surrounded with friends and family. More money can be spent on mental health services, as the number of people committing suicide and slipping into a depression keeps increasing each year. However, the government should spend more money on informing people about how they can identify the symptoms of mental health issues, so that they can immediately seek help if they have those symptoms. We cannot ignore it as a band-aid solution, because statistics show that each year, approximately one in five Australians will experience a mental illness and the prevalence is greatest among the age bracket of 18-24 years.
    Changes have to be made in society. The current society is extremely fast paced. As Sennett averts, although the city is crowded, it is filled with strangers. As Franklin expresses in his article, we do not connect loneliness to social structure and cultural change. Hence, currently people tend to identify loneliness as a mental health issue and immediately seek medical help for it. Loneliness is also suffered by children at a young age, through bullying in schools. The inability to express oneself and share a person’s thoughts with another person, brings about loneliness. The government of a country needs to device a system where all the cultures can easily mingle as several people ho belong to minority groups in a country experience loneliness as they always remain unheard by the public and the administration of the country. Loneliness can also be removed in cities if people remove the class system as people in lower classes are looked down upon by the upper class and upper- middle class people, for the jobs that they do and their inadequate education.

  15. Whilst mental health services may just be a ‘Band-Aid’ solution, the overall need for such services, and the continuing difficulty that some individuals face when accessing such services, means that we need to increase the funding that they receive. In the long run an increase in expenditure will not only save the country money, as mental illness is currently resulting in the loss of $11 billion dollars annually, but will also (hopefully) improve the quality of life of Australian citizens (Patulny 2017). In theory, an increase in expenditures could be used to improve societal understanding of mental illness, in the case of anxiety disorders a change in societal perceptions is desperately need. Anthony Jorm (2015) has reflected that the majority of Australians do not considered anxiety disorders to be a legitimate health disorder. Such a perception is having detrimental impacts on the lives of individuals whom suffer from such illnesses. Thus, I believe an increase in funding is still needed as it would ultimately benefit the lives of so many Australian citizens. However, I still believe that we still need to evaluated the social, urban and media environments and the impacts these are having on individuals sense of sociability and security and ones feelings of anxiety, isolation and loneliness. Such an evaluation, in conjecture with an increase in expenditures, could result in necessary structural changes that have the potential to ultimately improve the health and wellbeing of Australian Citizens, and the Western world more broadly.
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  16. There are, as has already been established, many services in place around Australia, both in-person and online/on the phone, that combat mental illness and help people suffering. There do not need to be any more introduced in Australia. The government should not need to spend more money on these services in particular as they are already well established within the communities that they operate in, but more money could be spent on the actual advertising of these services with an emphasis based on not feeling ashamed to get into contact with these professionals. The Band-Aid solution does not necessarily mean that it is a bad thing; short term help is better than no help at all.

    The difference between city and suburban loneliness was explored during the lecture and had input from the classmates which helped explain this issue and the difference between them. We all know the feeling of being ‘alone in a crowd’, especially when this is related to the imagery of the city, but it is also the feeling that comes to mind when you think that people will not understand what you are going through, or want to understand either. School teaching programmes regarding anxiety and depression should be taught very early on (maybe mid-primary school) because kids will not get through high school unscathed.

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  17. As Roger Patulny stated, greater expenditures on mental health services, I believe is indeed a Band-Aid solution. The need for exploration into the background and issues in which effect, cause and lead to these mental health issues, should be the approach used to find solutions. In order for individuals to first recognise that they may have symptoms of a mental health disorder, whether it be an anxiety, depression, stress etc. disorder, this is crucial for diminishing the stigma that surrounds mental health issues (Jorm, 2015). Moreover, the significance of highlighting the inexpensive cost that can be applied to health care is also an element that needs further discussion and exploration, as the ability to fund the importance of mental health care is highly significant and crucial for the better of the effected individuals. Therefore it is evident that there is no need for greater costs to be spent on these services but rather to be used in conjunction with the media to make these services noticed more and for there to be no fear or shame.
    Society influences, directs, and affects the way in which an individual perceives their life and their surroundings. This can lead to a certain disconnection and sense of loneliness within a city filled with thousands of people. It has been noted that unhealthy emotions and unsocial cities have a direct and significant link towards one another (Kelly et. al 2012). This further allows exploration into town planning and the potential particular public spaces may have in causing greater socialisation within the community. Furthermore, this can then lead to result in an improved mental health state, even if it may only be small, it is better than nothing.

  18. The biggest killer for Australia’s aged 15 – 44 years of age is suicide. Mental health illness, including depression and anxiety, are serious and can detrimentally impact an individual’s live. Although the current $11 billion funding is substantial, it is also a necessary in the current day. It’s difficult to argue that this expense in a Band-Aid solution when so many individuals need these services. Even with this level of funding Australia citizens covered by Medicare can only access 10 psychology treatments in a year, which is not enough for ongoing treatment.

    In the lecture and Franklin reading, the issues of the structure in modern day life is a damaging course of the rise in anxiety and loneliness. The structure of the family has changed and social life’s have changed due to the rise of capitalism in Western countries. The link between these changes and the continuing rise of anxiety and loneliness need to be addressed by sociologists but the importance’s of individual care should not be ignored.

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  19. Mental health services provided in Australia have done well with the resources available, however, a re-evaluation is required as to why more Australians are being directed to these services. In society, it seems that medical services are all too ready to prescribe an individual medication, then looking at the underlining environmental factors that determine an individual’s mental health. As Jorm (2015) highlights the increase of anxiety within our population, he contends there is a blurred line between everyday anxiety and anxiety disorders that makes it hard to determine if an individual requires professional services. This blurriness is also applicable to loneliness, in which Franklin (2008) surmises that changes in our social and familial environments, has witnessed a reduction of social networks and weakened quality of social bonds.

    A holistic approach is required to address mental health issues in Australia, with a specific focus on the underlying determinants that contribute. A Band-Aid solution will not suffice in the long-term.

  20. The National Mental Health Commission estimated that the Australian Government mental health-related expenditure in 2014-15 to be $9.6 billion – I believe this is sufficient although perhaps agencies need to become streamlined as to become more accessible to the community. Instead of agencies attempts to individualise treatment for mental illness more funding towards research behind such psychological issues may be beneficial as to combat the illness itself in conjunction with the individual causes.

    Franklin (2012) discussed Bauman’s theory of Liquid Modernity, taking aim at the individualised culture of relationships. Society’s perpetuation of loneliness and anxiety can be witnessed within social media as the communication of negative emotions within an individual’s communication can prompt rejection and further isolation. An individual may have 1000 friends on Facebook but may lack the relationship to have one person genuinely reach out for comfort. Whilst mental health may be discussed and prompt discussion within social media forums the general consensus of the community doesn’t want to hear about an individual’s problems to a certain extent – the general expectation is that mental health issues are to be treated privately.

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