If you want to know just where to turn to when you are down on your luck, then any one of the amazing charities and services in Bendigo is your first port of call.
There are so many local folk ready to lend a helping hand, that you will be very grateful for their compassion and kindness in your time of trouble.
Then when you get back on your feet, you can help them out, because you know first hand just what a wonderful service they do for us Bendigonians.
You can read all about the many quiet achievers in our Bendigo Charities and Services guide here.
Meanwhile have a read about this loneliness story, written by Alan Woodward from Lifeline. It has touched many a heart since we published it in the magazine, as people have called and told us so.
Loneliness and how to combat it
There are several aspects to understanding loneliness, but it starts with whether a person feels socially connected with other people or not.
Loneliness for some people is the physical side of being alone; literally not having other people around to relate to. For some people living in rural and remote areas of Australia, that can be their reality. But people who are surrounded by others - even in the heart of a large city - can also experience loneliness. A person might feel they are not connected with others at all, even though there are many people around them. Therefore, the best understanding of loneliness is around the relationships and the quality of those relationships people have to others.
Common causes of loneliness
Sometimes, there are changes in the social supports that we're receiving and the connections we have with people in our lives. It can occur suddenly - such as a death of a spouse or through a sudden relocation - or it can happen more gradually, like the nature of a relationship changing or the gradual onset of physical ill health and disability that can restrict people.
For older people, loneliness can come after the loss of a loved one. They might struggle to redefine how they relate to others, given how much of their life has been about including the loved one. Sometimes loneliness comes after retiring from full-time work or other forms of work where so much of the person's social relationships revolved around their identity at work. Or it comes after a relocation where a person now needs to renegotiate many of their social relationships.
But over the course of our lifetime, our relationships do change and our socials supports change around that. So it is important for us to recognise that sometimes we might need to address the need for social support more deliberately.
If you are experiencing loneliness, the first thing is to recognise that this is real and that people do become lonely. It doesn't mean there is anything wrong with you. This is something that people do experience and even if you are feeling so incredibly alone and isolated, you may take some comfort in the fact that you're not the only person in the world that has that experience. It's not you; it's not about you as a person, it's about what's happened in terms of your social connections.
The second message is that it is worthwhile becoming socially connected. Life is enjoyable when we're socially connected and we want our life to be enjoyable. Human beings are social creatures and our wellbeing is affected by the extent we feel socially connected to others, so it is worth the effort.
The third message is to seek help; seek the support of others. Reach out to say you need some help. There are services and programs that are very helpful, but sometimes it is as simple as reaching out to a trusted person and say you need some help to become more socially engaged.
Often times people feel reluctant to ask for help because they aren't sure if people will want to help them or that there isn't help for their own situation. Although these are understandable reasons, remember that these are not good reasons to not ask for help. There is help available.
How you can help
One of the things that R U OK? has sought to promote in the wider community is the value of the positive helping conversation. At the heart of the helping conversation is the ability to listen. So telling a lonely person what to do is not going to be very helpful. We need to listen and understand what is happening for people who are feeling isolated. Often the solution lies in reaching out to a person in a respectful way so that they do feel included. Again the emphasis is on the helping conversation.
The most helpful thing you can do sometimes is to ask people what is happening for them; what is their experience. In doing so and then genuinely listening to what a person says, it is demonstrating that someone is interested, someone does care, and that there is real value in making the effort to relate socially to others.
It is a remarkably simple thing to ask a person how they're going and ask if they are ok. And then to allow them to talk.
R U OK? is a not-for-profit organisation that aims to inspire Australians to connect and have regular, meaningful conversations every day of the year to help anyone who might not be ok.
There is help if you, or someone you know, is experiencing a personal crisis.
By Alan Woodward, Executive Director of Lifeline Research Foundation and research expert at R U OK?
- You can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.