“We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.” Dorothy Day
Now, more than ever before, is there a need for us to be aware of the power and importance of community and take action in building and sustaining it. The recent pandemic and other global happenings have created so much separation, and for many, a deep sense of isolation and loneliness.
Turn on the news any day of the week, read the daily paper, or scroll through social media feeds and the word “divisiveness” springs to mind. On one hand we talk of unity, yet on the other the complete opposite. Instead of seeing the majority come together in community, collaboration, and a shared interest in the well-being of humanity, we see an increasing trend of people feeling isolated, separate, overwhelmed by uncertainty, and caught in a vicious cycle of fear.
What does this mean?
It goes against our nature as a naturally social, interactive race for a start. It also results in something we are seeing rise at an alarming rate – mental health issues.
If we take a look at a couple of the traditional communities that exist such as the Kaluli tribe of New Guinea and the Amish, we see that issues such as depression and anxiety are virtually unknown. Yet in western society depression is the number one psychological disorder.
According to Mental Health Statistics:
- 1 in 4 people experience mental health issues each year
- 792 million people are affected by mental health issues worldwide
- At any given time, 1 in 6 working-age adults have symptoms associated with mental ill health
- Mental illness is the second-largest source of burden of disease in England. Mental illnesses are more common, long-lasting and impactful than other health conditions
- People with a long-term mental health condition lose their jobs every year at around double the rate of those without a mental health condition. This equates to 300,000 people – the equivalent of the population of Newcastle or Belfast, Northern Ireland
- 75% of mental illness (excluding dementia) starts before age 18
- Men aged 40-49 have the highest suicide rates in the UK
- 70-75% of people with diagnosable mental illness receive no treatment at all
Let’s get back to basics and remember what really matters
We are meant to support each other, and we are meant to live as part of a nurturing community. It’s in our DNA.
Community Lessons from the Yequana
There is a book called “The Continuum Concept” by Jean Liedloff that was written in 1975, which tells of Jean Liedloff’s study of the Yequana tribe, an indigenous people living in the South American jungle. Her study was based on their parenting system. Having watched the tribe for some time she became aware of how different the children were to children in western society. They were calmer, happier and more grounded. They showed none of the emotional reactions and issues western children displayed such as anxiety, throwing tantrums, shyness and so on. She was in awe of their mental, physical and emotional vitality.
The key difference between the Yequana children and western children lay in the fact that they never experienced separation. They were always included in community life and kept in close physical contact with their parents or carer. Right from day one they had a community to support, care for and inspire them to be the best they could be.
This study shows clearly the power that unity and true community can have. It literally changes people on a mental, physical and emotional level. It is how we are wired to thrive. When we feel supported, nurtured, and believed in we are much more likely to believe in ourselves and consequently be more productive, creative, and positive.
Back to us in the Western world
There are no two ways about it. Lockdown has drastically increased separation, mental health issues, and loneliness.
So, the question is, despite what we face, despite restrictions, what ways can we work together to create community and focus on that, rather than on the things we have no control over? How can we focus on what is possible, rather than let our minds get stuck in what is wrong and what we have lost?
Imagine how many people who struggle with mental health challenges would be able to transform their lives if they felt heard, accepted, and nurtured?
What would we be able to create in this new world we find ourselves in, if we came from a place of love, connection, and community focus?
I believe we would see some powerful change!
My point in writing this is that whilst I know how challenging these times are for everyone, let us not forget who we really are and what is important. We thrive in community. We thrive when we feel connected. Let us not get so overwhelmed by what is happening that we forget what really matters.
I leave you with the question…are you part of a community that truly serves you and that you feel inspired to share your gifts and energy with? Are you supported by people on the same page as you? If the answer is no, what could you do today to change this? What could you do with the resources you have available that would make a difference in your life and the life of others?
About Belinda Bennetts: Belinda is the founder of Belinda Bennetts: Mind Body Soul. She is an intuitive holistic life coach, therapeutic writing facilitator, poet and author.