SOC327 2017 Tut10 – Wed 1730

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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  1. We need to examine the social, urban and media environments which affect our sociability and feelings of anxiety and loneliness. Richard Sennett, argues that the urban environment and modern occupations cause social ties to become disconnected. For example, a city is a business area and contains a large population of individuals who have busy schedules, who do not have time to socialize. (Patulny 2017) Zigmund Bauman believes that the media also plays a role in our feelings of loneliness, even though it allows us to connect and lower commitment to other individuals, we can also be rejected when individuals do not want to socialize with us. (Franklin 2012, p. 17)

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  2. No mental health issue should ever be a band-aid solution, the symptoms and causes of anxiety need to be more well known amongst society in all areas of urban, rural and suburbs. With a prevalence of anxiety at 15% in all Australians indicates that it definitely should be more looked at and in which areas it is more prevalent. For example, Sennett explains that because of the growing economy in the cities there is no permanent jobs within companies anymore it’s all flexible work for certain projects then shifted off to the next company. So the lack of job security would be through the roof in regards to anxiety levels, from a urban perspective (Sennett, 2000).

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  3. Generally I believe that psychological treatments and campaigns should be highly supported to grow a good conciousness and a healthy in our society. This is not a Band-Aid solution, but an adequate reaction to emerging phenomenons in the changing environment. But also we should encourage everyone to try separating the individualization process and freedom within our job from social bonds. It is important to have a strong social network and the evolving mood of inconsistency, footloose and short-term will do immense damage to our relationships and provoke loneliness. We need to accept the outstanding importance of stability in Baumanns described battle between ‘desire for freedom and need for security’ (Franklin 2012, p. 25).

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  4. Under no circumstances should mental health be undermined or overlooked. For the prevalence of anxiety and loneliness to decrease within society, there needs to be a strong investment in not only funding but also in the structural dynamics of social environments. Franklin (2012) takes note of Baumans’ ideology where he suggests that loneliness is a result of “the social structural nature of a radically new form of modernity” (Franking 2012, p. 16). I believe that we should and need to examine the social constructs within society today and in the near future, that may exacerbate feelings of anxiety, isolation and loneliness.

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  5. Greater expenditure on mental health awareness and research is necessary (perhaps not in medicalisation though) to ensure progress in breaking down stigma, but loneliness is not a mental health condition or ‘psychological pathology’ (Franklin, 2012). In overcoming loneliness, which has become something of a paradox in today’s society in that it is often people with the most social connections (but which lack depth and meaning) who are the most lonely, we must attempt to systemically transform society. But, this requires some inherent change in the human condition. The people complaining of loneliness must need to want to and be willing to change to strengthen their current connections in a way that most people try to avoid. Some purport that loneliness is merely a current symptom of the structure of society which will disappear in time. However, so long as loneliness is associated with more pressing mental conditions such as depression and anxiety, it demands further research and deliberation as to how best to minimise harm.
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  6. I don’t believe that greater expenditure on mental health awareness or services is an ineffective tool in combating the rising levels of mental health issues in Australia. Nor do i really see it as a band-aid solution. I think the rising number in diagnosed mental health issues is due to the information and awareness provided to us these days, and the encouragement to seek the services that are provided with this funding. This aids to normalise the fact that disorders like anxiety and depression are so hugely common in our society, and that in itself is a step in to helping people feel less alone.
    Of course this is not a one step process to curing mental illness and we need to really analyse how in conjunction to these services, we can go further and make deeper, structural changes to our social, urban and media environments.
    Mental illness and psychological disorders are not just individual, they are social and linked to changing intimacy and relational structures in late modernity (Giddens). It is no longer simple to ‘take a break’ from the fast paced world around us, technology gives us a vantage point to access information and overload our brains 24/7.
    What needs to be done is a change in mental and emotional health education from a young age, in order to provide the self awareness and skills people need to combat the way our emotions and brains must evolve in the new age.

  7. Mental health is an issue that no one really likes to speak about due to the stigmatisation surrounding it. For example if you have a mental health its, UOW will label you as disabled. Which certainly is not going to help people in seeking help if they are simply put in a category. Every person handles their mental illness differently and with different tools. There needs to be better aid for individuals and not have people simply put in a box and given the same treatment.

  8. I think that putting money into mental health services is a very necessary thing to do. You will never be able to influence an entire society to change their ways of thinking. Feelings of anxiety and loneliness sometimes are all in your mind and the way you think causes a panic or the feelings surrounding being lonely.

  9. Everyone feels lonely at some point. Even when they are surrounded by people. Loneliness doesn’t always apply to the physical viewpoint. You could be surrounded by others and feelings of loneliness can still be present. This can be supported by Franklin. In which he argues loneliness has become an embedded structural feature within the Australian lifestyle. As Simmel’s writings use major cities as examples for mass loneliness. It is easy to agree with. As I sometimes feel lonely in large areas like clubs, which is prevalent for over stimulating situations.
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  10. Sigmund Bauman and Anthony Middens mention this concept that our society is influencing this “individualised” culture. To me, being alone is usually associated with maturity and the idea that I no longer need to depend on other people to fend for myself. Because this influence has taken effect on a lot of people in modern society, they have been influenced to start their individual lives whether they are prepared or not. For example, I am abroad and very far form my friends and family. I felt inclined to go abroad because many kids my age do and have explained how it helps you grow up, looks good on your resume and teaches you how to live on your own. Although I am grateful I took the leap others I know feel very lonely and miss home. This push towards individualism causing modern society to feel lonely, even when they least expect it.

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  11. The dominant biomedical paradigm in health focuses on technology-based medical care and the ‘patient’. A differing perspective is the social paradigm which understands health as a social phenomenon, complete with complex environmental and social factors. To increase expenditure on medical services without any focus on social structure is a Band-Aid. Social connections that would have previously grounded individuals in their networks have become ‘superficial and disengaged’ (Sennet). So, while they still are present, their social functions have lost their integrity; they lack the capacity to create deep feelings of belonging, due to their newfound shallowness (Bauman/Franklin).

  12. The idea of loneliness is itself a societal construction. Who is to say that someone has to FEEL a certain way because they are not surrounded by the people and pleasures that society is telling them that they need to be surrounded by? I find that society creates this vision of what happiness and fulfillment looks like … anyone who strays from that vision should feel anxious, depressed, and lonely. Society tells us that we need to handle this through the mental health resources they have to guide us back on track. So I guess what I am trying to say is that the concept of loneliness is heavily impacted by social and societal norms.

    Franklin argues that these problems can ultimately become resolved as society allows more frequent social interaction. However, I find that some people still experience loneliness even when they are surrounded and engaging with a big room full of people. In the same way, we spoke about creating more ‘social cities’ in order to combat these issues. I feel that these issues are more individualistic and may require more than just increasing range of social options…

  13. Of cause there are outside factors influencing mental health, such as loneliness, trauma etc, though we also need to consider the chemical imbalances in the brain to fully understand mental illness. There are people out there that have everything they need and want, plenty of friends, a great job, and yet they are experiencing anxiety and depression. They themselves do not understand why these illnesses have affected them.

  14. Funding mental health is not a bandaid solution. As well as being aware of the issues, it is crucial that services and support are in place for individuals suffering from mental health issues. Loneliness is felt by everyone within society but it is the way in which we interact and approach these feelings that can impact us. Mental health organisations’ main goal is to create awareness to these illnesses. I’m not sure that society will be able to alter its current state enough to approach mental health in its entirety. It would be a very long term approach to ensuring our society is conditioned enough to allow it to affect our feelings and anxieties.

  15. I think mental health services are a Band Aid solution. People need to apply themselves to their surroundings in an effort to ward off loneliness, and if that doesn’t work, integration into their social environment through opportunities made available to them by their living area-like social cafes-can aid in helping people stay connected. Paraphrasing Sennett, the environment can be a catalyst in loneliness in someone’s life. I think changes to our environments can be made to cultivate a community-based network and keep people involved.
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