I was walking through the main street of a small town not far from where I live. As I strolled down the street I passed a lane way from which I could hear a young women calling out for someone to get off her, “get off me, get off me, let me go”. At first I associated these calls with young children playing, perhaps a brother and a sister with the brother teasing and holding down his sister. However, something was not right, the screaming sounded desperate, it contained a much deeper sense of urgency, the sound of someone in trouble. So I turned and started towards the lane as people from the surrounding shops began also to investigate.
Just at that moment a young man come running from an apartment followed by a young women, say 19, crying and screaming chasing after the young man. They ran up the street and disappeared down another lane way. People gathered in the street suggesting their own version of events to fit the scenario. Some suggesting the young man suffered from mental illness and some suggesting the young women was simply seeking attention, was not right in her own way.
The police were called.
The raw emotion I experienced was distressing, all I was concerned with was the safety of both people. I could feel the pain both of them were experiencing. I could see it in their eyes and hear it in their screams. Has this become part of their daily life, are they experiencing this deep level of pain on a frequent basis, have they become familiar with this pain?
I’m wondering what has happened to them, have they found peace?
Before I started writing this post I googled “The pain of society”, numerous results come up but most talked about the physical pain we feel as a result of chronic disease, talking mostly about pain and pain management. There were links to pain societies all over the globe, Ireland, Singapore, Australia, Hong Kong, America all researching physical pain and its management.
What I was looking for however were sites dedicated to researching and reducing the emotional pain people are suffering, the pain and suffering within our societies. The statistics are astounding;
- One in five (20%) Australians aged 16-85 experience a mental illness in any year.
- Every day, at least six Australians die from suicide and a further thirty people will attempt to take their own life
- Men are at greatest risk of suicide but least likely to seek help.
- In 2010 men accounted for over three-quarters (76.9%) of deaths from suicide however, an estimated 72% of males don’t seek help for mental disorders.
- Attempted suicide is also an important issue with estimates that in Australia over 60,000 people a year attempt to take their own lives, the majority being women.
- One in seven Australians will experience depression in their lifetime
- Depression is the number one cause of non-fatal disability in Australia (24%)
The list of statistics goes on and on and the picture fails to get any brighter.
What is going on? What’s creating this pain in our society?
A search of the net reveals many, many pages discussing how being present in nature is good for mental health, makes one feel happier, brings peace and can create a feeling of contentment. When one thinks about how we walk in nature rather than down a busy street, sit on a beach and watch the sunrise over the ocean than whatch it rise on TV. This feeling has been theorised to suggest humans naturally like to be around other living things, a theory developed by famous ecologist, biologist and all round smart guy, Edward O Wilson.
From the scientific world a study titled Nature experience reduces rumination and subgenual prefrontal cortex activation http://www.pnas.org/content/112/28/8567.full#ref-8, suggests that urbanization is associated with increased levels of mental illness, including depression. It has been suggested that decreased nature experience may help to explain the link between urbanization and mental illness. The study found that accessible natural areas within urban contexts may be a critical resource for mental health in our rapidly urbanizing world.
In a similar paper it suggests that people seek out natural places, parks and gardens appear to intuitively understand the personal health and well-being benefits arising from ‘contact with nature’. The study concluded that ‘contact with nature’ may provide an effective population-wide strategy in prevention of mental ill health, with potential application for sub-populations, communities and individuals at higher risk of ill health. http://heapro.oxfordjournals.org/content/21/1/45.abstract?ijkey=3d3329cefc73e17757510bfdd9df7888d28f35e6&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha
Furthermore in a paper titled Would You Be Happier Living in a Greener Urban Area? Researchers suggest that Urbanization is a potential threat to mental health and well-being. The study found that on average, individuals have both lower mental distress and higher well-being when living in urban areas with more green space. Although effects at the individual level were small, the potential cumulative benefit at the community level highlights the importance of policies to protect and promote urban green spaces for well-being. http://pss.sagepub.com/content/24/6/920.abstract?ijkey=f9c2d46870bbd39113ce041533f7284d50f5ab43&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha
So there we have it, scientific evidence that being in nature and living closer to green spaces can help improve mental health and with such a strong correlation, researches are suggesting interactions with nature should be implemented as a public health policy to reduce instances of mental health.
So what are we as a society doing about it? What are we doing to help reduce this pain so many of our brothers and sisters are experiencing?
It is abundantly clear that being in nature, ‘connecting to nature’ can be used to help our society to reduce mental health, feel better about ourselves and form these connections that brings us closer to who we really are to where we really came from…