Lack of social supports damaging mental health

Lack of social supports damaging mental health

Each year Sonder looks forward to celebrating Mental Health Week.

This year, Sonder has participated in many activities throughout the week, encouraging people to start conversations about mental health, to reduce stigma and improve awareness.

This year, we want to also draw attention to social factors that can have a great impact on people’s mental health and wellbeing, and the people who are fighting for a change.

Deb Jacobs is a 63-year-old Jobseeker recipient living in the northern suburbs of Adelaide. She is also a member of Sonder’s Mental Health Consumers & Carers Reference Group.

Last week, Deb spoke to Guardian journalist, Luke Henrique-Gomes about the barriers she has faced as an older woman seeking employment, and dealing with multiple chronic health conditions while trying to adhere to Centrelink’s mutual obligations.

Because of the low rate of Jobseeker (which has not been raised for over 20 years), in the past Deb has had to choose between getting the medication she needs and keeping the lights on.

Long-term unemployment and financial strain can have an extremely negative impact on mental and physical health.

There is also a lot of stigma attached to accessing welfare payments. This stigma can make mental health problems worse due to shame and anxiety. But the vast majority of people on Jobseeker are not the stereotypical “dole-bludgers” we often see portrayed in the media. As Deb says in the Guardian article:

“I’m still staggered at how many older people are on Newstart.”

From The Guardian:

“Experts now say Australia’s jobseeker payment has become a “pre-age-pension payment” for older people who find themselves out of work and left stranded in poverty.”

“Women over 50 made up only 5% of all jobseeker recipients in 2001. Last year, they were one-in-five. Meanwhile, a third of all women on jobseeker aged over 55 had been on the payment for more than five years, up from 13% in 2009.”

Click here to read the full article

Stories like this show that whilst mental health awareness is important, it is not enough on its own.

Deb is well-informed on mental health, and is a strong community advocate through her volunteering and involvement in Sonder’s reference group, but has been thwarted by social and economic conditions which do not enable people to live healthy lives.

Still, Deb says she will keep fighting to get herself and others like her the support and respect they deserve. For a start, that means raising the rate of Jobseeker, and getting rid of age discrimination in the job market.

“At least I know I’ve done everything in my power to help add the pressure to make it happen,” she says.

“Or go down swinging.”

Sonder’s free mental health services

Sonder’s mental health services are all completely free of charge.

Access to most of our services is via a Mental Health Care Plan, which can be obtained through a GP. To find out how to get a Mental Health Care Plan, click here.

We also have a number of programs which you do not need a Care Plan for.

Focused Mind is a phone-based, 6-week counselling program for people experiencing mild to moderate depression, anxiety or stress. Call us on 8209 0700 to find out how to get involved with this program.

If you are seeking immediate mental health support outside of normal business hours, please drop into our Walk-in Mental Health Service at Edinburgh North. We are open Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Monday from 5pm – 10pm. No appointment needed.

Sonder’s Reference Group helps Sonder to improve our mental health services and ensure we are hearing the voices and meeting the needs of people in our community.

To find out more and submit an application click here.