Let’s take care of each other

The Cairns Post - - VIEWS -

FOR­GIVE me dear reader, I usu­ally use this page to rage about pol­i­tics, but this week I’d like to think out loud about some­thing far more im­por­tant, lone­li­ness.

It was R U OK? Day on Thurs­day and sure, many mouthed the words about reach­ing out to mates and tak­ing care of each other, but how much do peo­ple ac­tu­ally do it?

A cou­ple of weeks ago Life­line re­leased a sur­vey of 3000 Aus­tralians that showed 60 per cent of peo­ple are lonely and 82.5 per cent think it’s in­creas­ing all over so­ci­ety.

I don’t know why, but surely the fact peo­ple don’t seem to care when they hear a statis­tic like that is part of the prob­lem.

Maybe we are all too busy to care, but if you take out all the dis­trac­tions we pre­tend are the im­por­tant things we ‘have to do’ to­day, lone­li­ness isn’t that strange a con­cept to un­der­stand.

Per­haps so many peo­ple told Life­line the prob­lem is get­ting big­ger is be­cause it feels like so­ci­ety is aimed at the in­di­vid­ual, rarely the col­lec­tive.

You may have lived in the same city, town or sub­urb for a while. But do you feel part of the ‘com­mu­nity’?

I’m al­ways in awe of how many Aus­tralians are vol­un­teers.

Ac­cord­ing to Vol­un­teer­ing Aus­tralia, there are more than six mil­lion peo­ple who give their time to causes, clubs and or­gan­i­sa­tions they hold dear.

So what do the other 19 mil­lion peo­ple do?

For 2.7 mil­lion peo­ple there’s no time to vol­un­teer be­cause they are car­ing for some­one in their fam­ily in need.

Ac­cord­ing to Car­ers Aus­tralia the av­er­age age of a carer is 55 and their main role is to take care of their par­ents; 856,000 are pri­mary car­ers for their fam­ily mem­bers due to dis­abil­ity, ill­ness or age; stun­ningly 1 in 10 car­ers are un­der the age of 25.

In money terms, if some­one was get­ting paid to do what they do, it would cost more than $60 bil­lion.

Then there’s a num­ber that’s get­ting big­ger by the year. More than a quar­ter of all homes in Aus­tralia have just one per­son liv­ing in them.

The av­er­age age of women liv­ing alone is 64, men it’s 54. The big­gest rea­son for men liv­ing alone in their mid­dle age is fam­ily sep­a­ra­tion.

All these sta­tis­tics aren’t in­tended to be de­press­ing read­ing, but they are some of the many parts that lead to the over­all prob­lem of lone­li­ness. A prob­lem we can’t sim­ply ig­nore and hope our lives will some­how es­cape the many fac­tors that pull us away from each other.

In the UK their gov­ern­ment has a min­is­ter for lone­li­ness, and while I’m not ad­vo­cat­ing for any­thing like that, we clearly need to do a whole lot more to reach out to the peo­ple our fast mov­ing, and largely im­age ob­sessed cul­ture, leave be­hind.

A small step is to think of the peo­ple in your own cir­cle who are be­ing left be­hind.

Pick up the phone and call them for no rea­son other than to say hi. Take a mo­ment to talk to the per­son be­hind the counter at the shops and try and ask them a real ques­tion about their day.

In­vite a mate you haven’t seen in a while to watch the footy at the pub, or maybe take the two hours you wanted to spend watch­ing a movie and talk to the old­est mem­ber of your fam­ily.

These won’t cure the prob­lem, but we need to take the time to let ev­ery­one know some­one knows they are here and we need them round for a lot longer.

If you or a loved one need ex­tra sup­port, Life­line Aus­tralia pro­vides free 24/7 tele­phone cri­sis sup­port on 13 11 14. Other ser­vices and tools can be found at www.ruok.org.au/find­help. Paul Mur­ray is a broad­caster with Sky News. His show Paul Mur­ray LIVE can be seen 9-11pm SUN­DAY – THURS­DAY on Foxtel Chan­nel 103 and 600 and Sky News on WIN

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