MEN­TAL HEALTH

A sense of com­mu­nity is so cru­cial

Let's Talk - - CONTENTS -

Ear­lier this year I went to Corfu and wrote an ar­ti­cle en­ti­tled: “Put­ting Your­self In The Way of Beauty”. I was talk­ing about the beau­ti­ful is­land and its peo­ple, who have so lit­tle in this dif­fi­cult eco­nomic cli­mate, yet re­main so happy and pos­i­tive.

Some­body wrote and asked the ques­tion, did I think that this was due to their Chris­tian faith?

It’s in­ter­est­ing isn’t it, that we have so much more, on the sur­face, than the peo­ple in Corfu; our economy is bet­ter, we too have beau­ti­ful land­scapes and beaches.

In com­par­i­son we are af­flu­ent, how­ever, we don’t seem to have the same sense of spirit or hap­pi­ness?

It is an in­ter­est­ing point whether the Chris­tian faith makes a dif­fer­ence.

In my work as a psy­chother­a­pist, I have worked with clients for whom their faith or religion has been an end­less source of re­as­sur­ance and com­fort to them. How­ever, I have also worked with just as many clients for whom faith and religion have been the very source of their dis­com­fort or is­sue.

For me, the key word would be ‘com­mu­nity’. It does seem to be some­thing that we are los­ing sense of here. In Corfu there is a huge sense of com­mu­nity. Fam­i­lies live to­gether and pull to­gether; the el­derly are taken care of by the younger mem­bers of the fam­ily and the tra­di­tion is that you leave a house un­fin­ished so that you can add an­other floor for the next gen­er­a­tion.

As a small is­land, they all know each other and sup­port each other.

In the win­ter in most re­sorts, a cou­ple of bars are opened for the lo­cal com­mu­nity to catch up with each other af­ter a busy sum­mer sea­son.

The fam­i­lies all look out for each other and the chil­dren. One teenager grumpily told me that ‘if I sneeze in Si­dari, Mum knows about it be­fore I get home to Ip­sos!’

The chil­dren here are rel­a­tively safe as a re­sult of this com­mu­nity spirit.

There have been many re­ports to prove that so­cial­i­sa­tion and fam­ily are key to longevity and good men­tal health. Sar­dinia, for ex­am­ple, boasts an ex­traor­di­nar­ily long liv­ing pop­u­la­tion.

In a re­port by CNN (edi­tion.cnn. com) it was re­ported that in the early 2000s, de­mog­ra­pher and physi­cian Dr Gio­vanni Pes found re­mark­ably low mor­tal­ity rates and high life ex­pectan­cies among sev­eral vil­lages in cen­tral Sar­dinia. He marked each settlement on to a map, even­tu­ally cre­at­ing a clus­ter of blue marks.

He la­belled the re­gion a blue zone, a term now used to re­fer to any area with ex­traor­di­nar­ily longliv­ing pop­u­la­tions.

Five have been iden­ti­fied, in­clud­ing Ni­coya, Costa Rica, and Ikaria, Greece.

The el­der pop­u­la­tion did not take vast amounts of med­i­ca­tion ei­ther, and they re­mained lu­cid and in good men­tal health. The find­ings of his study proved that be­ing among fam­ily, good so­cial in­ter­ac­tion and a feel­ing of still be­ing an core part of a house­hold and com­mu­nity lead to a long and healthy life.

I sup­pose a sense of be­long­ing, whether it be to your God or your fam­ily and com­mu­nity is the im­por­tant fac­tor in sus­tain­ing a long, healthy life!

There is a lot we can learn from the peo­ple in Sar­dinia and Corfu. We are still only a small is­land - there is some­thing to be said for getting on with your neigh­bours.

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