Online forum to tackle loneliness and social isolation

More than 3,000 people from across Australia will be discussing how to deal with loneliness, isolation and anxiety in an online forum hosted by the Australian Psychological Society (APS) tonight.

President of the APS Ms Ros Knight said that interest in the event was not surprising given that many Australians were experiencing increased or new feelings of loneliness because of social distancing, quarantine and self-isolation.

According to research undertaken by the APS and Swinburne University, one-in four-Australians experienced loneliness prior to the pandemic. And a new survey released last week found that loneliness could be on the increase nationally, with the majority (57%) of Australians feeling lonely and isolated more often since the outbreak of COVID-19 (Source: MyGov, April 2020).

“Loneliness is not itself a mental health problem,” Ms Knight said.

“But being lonely increases our chances of poor mental health and having a mental illness increases our chances of experiencing loneliness.

“People who were already feeling lonely may find that their loneliness has become worse because of the new isolation rules, especially among older adults,” she added.

As well as Ms Knight, a clinical and counselling psychologist in Sydney and Clinic Director at Macquarie University’s Psychology Clinic, forum attendees will hear from Dr Michelle Lim, Senior Lecturer, Clinical Psychology at Swinburne University and Professor Jo Badcock, Adjunct Professor, School of Psychological Science, University of Western Australia – both experts in the areas of loneliness and social isolation and their impact on mental health and wellbeing.

Ms Knight said the forum would cover a range of important and helpful topics, including:

· General understanding of what loneliness means

· Why it’s important to reduce loneliness

· Tips on managing loneliness

· What you can do to help yourself – if you are lonely

· What you can do to help others – if you are NOT lonely

· And current advice for some different groups within the population, including people who live alone, older people and children.

“Psychology has a lot of advice to offer to Australians in regards to feelings of loneliness. More should be done to understand the impact of loneliness in our community. More can be done, like this forum, to help people identify and manage their own feelings of loneliness and how to support others in the time of COVID-19,” Ms Knight said.

To register for the event go to https://www.psychology.org.au/Loneliness-socialisolation-event

The APS is the largest professional organisation for psychologists in Australia, representing more than 24,000 members. The APS is committed to advancing psychology as a discipline and profession. It spreads the message that psychologists make a difference to people’s lives, through improving psychological knowledge and community wellbeing. Visit www.psychology.org.au

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