How social exclusion impacts your mental health

As the lockdown extends once again on the eastern seaboard of Australia, it is timely to recognise the impact of being socially isolated has on your mental health. As you are aware, humans are naturally social creatures. They thrive on human interaction. When that contact is restricted, the toll it plays has serious consequences to your mind and body.

Social exclusion as defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) is “…. the dynamic multi-dimensional processes driven by unequal power relationships interacting across four main dimensions- economic, political, social and cultural – and at different levels including individual, household, group, community, country and global levels”.

As people are directed into lockdown or have to quarantine, studies conducted during 2020 and into 2021 show that it leads to an increase in negative emotions such as fear and anger. As a result, people start to experience emotional disorders such as depression, anxiety, insomnia caused by the lockdown or quarantine event.

Those negative emotions are compounded further by the uncertainty of the situation or where you are unable to access much needed information. Most importantly, becoming separated from your social connections and the fear of getting sick. All these factors impact on a your mental wellbeing. The longer you may find yourself confined with a continued reduction in human contact will increase the sense of loneliness and isolation – increasing your mental distress.

Even without the situation of lockdown and quarantine events, the stigma of mental illness is still embedded in society as a topic to be avoided. However, there are a number of factors that can contribute to anyone developing a mental injury at any point in life. These factors lead to those individuals being socially excluded, such as:

💚 Extent and quality of social networks;

💚 Access to social events;

💚 How active are people in the community;

💚 Living situations – whether someone lives alone, with a partner or with friends;

💚 Employment access;

💚 Access to financial resources, and

💚 Stigma attached to mental health by society

RU Okay is an opportunity to check in with your family, friends and even your neighbours and just ask the question. If they want to talk, it doesn’t take much to listen over a cup of tea or coffee. That moment may mean everything to the person.

Technology allows us to connect more broadly than ever before, from anywhere in the world., It may not have the same human connection as face to face contact, but it is a start in helping those in isolation feel socially included.

When we recognise the impact societal actions have on individuals can we start to improve mental wellbeing. Social inclusion means everyone having the means and access to participate in the community – economically, psychologically, politically and socially.

If you are experiencing any signs of depression, anxiety or suicide as a result of lockdown, isolation or sudden changes in your life, it is important to seek help immediately from your doctor, psychologist or psychiatrist or alternatively you can contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.

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