How well do you really know the people in your community? If your nearest neighbour is almost 500km away, you’d think it’d be tough to stay in touch. But as it turns out, city slickers can learn a lot from those in rural communities on how to stave off the effects of loneliness.
No matter where you live, loneliness can strike at any time. It impacts a huge number of Australians, and the effects can be hugely harmful. Experts have linked profound loneliness to depression, adverse physical conditions and even a higher rate of premature death.
Unfortunately, despite being more connected than ever, this invisible health crisis continues to grow. We are inherently social creatures, and we all need each other. Taking steps to reduce the incidence of loneliness can be as simple as picking up the phone to call someone, or stepping outside to visit a new or old friend.
Telstra’s new research into loneliness found six in ten (61%) Australians say that when they feel lonely they do not talk to others about it. Australians in rural regions who feel lonely are almost twice as likely as Australians in inner metro areas to say they don’t do anything to combat feelings of loneliness.
Telstra field technician Jarrad Radke knows what rural isolation feels like first-hand. In the last 11years Jarrad driven hundreds of thousands of kilometres across one Australia’s more remote regions to maintain rural and remote connectivity.
Jarrad said that that in his job, he spends a lot of time by himself, but doesn’t consider himself to be a lonely guy.
“You get lots of time to think about what’s going on in the world, be it at work or in your personal life. I find I get time to think things through, finding solutions to problems that maybe more fast-paced environments don’t allow,” he says on a phone call from Broome.
Regional communities often do all speak to each other in order to stave off the effects of loneliness, Jarrad says.
“Just because they live further away from each other than their city counterparts, doesn’t mean that they can’t band together. These communities are very much intune with what’s happening around them – be it a broken fence, a fire, a road closure or an impending weather event – they stay in touch with their neighbours and the community sharing information in an effort keep each other safe.”
Working to build a support community around you is important too. Often, it’s as easy as picking up the phone or opening your laptop. Over the years, these massive sprawling stations have found a way to build their own community to keep themselves from getting too lonely.
“Most stations I’ve seen a only have a handful of permanent staff however in busy mustering times this can grow to 30 or 40 people creating their own little community. I’ve found them to very engaged with their neighbours and they talk regularly on the phone, radio or via online communications to stay connected.”
“I get the impression that if that if they’re socially isolated, they can reach out to each other easily. Many stations also get involved in local rodeo’s/camp drafting events, supplying cattle, horses, and competitors, only too happy to be demonstrating their horsemanship and station skills whilst get involved in their wider community.
“It would appear to me that they work hard to make the most of these event’s and take the opportunity to get together, face to face with their neighbours, socialising and sharing experiences,” Jarrad says.
It’s an important lesson for everyone from the regional dwellers to the city slickers and everyone in between: we’re all susceptible to loneliness, and the best way to get through it is to reach out to people in your physical or virtual community to connect and get support.
Check out more tips on how to stave off loneliness at our Talking Loneliness hub.
If you need help, mental health support services are available through:
Beyond Blue – 1300 22 4636
Lifeline – 13 11 14
Kids Helpline – 1800 55 1800