A Sense of Community

A Sense of Community

Mental Health Case Study

Joe (not his real name), a 44 year old man came to see me (Dr Clem Bonney) for a general check-up.  He appeared slightly anxious and worried.  It is not unusual for men to present for a general check-up as a way of reaching out for someone to ask how they are. 

In Joe’s case, he was not doing so well.  He is married, with 2 children age 8 and 10 years and works in a factory.  When I asked what else he did, he looked perplexed.  “Things for yourself, exercise, hobbies, going out with your mates, that type of thing.” I suggested.  “Doc I have not done anything like that in years, I go to work and I come home.  My friends are my wife’s friends really.  I watch footy on the TV on Friday night and run the kids around on Saturday to sport.  I am too tired and not interested in doing anything else. I do not talk to anyone at work, my wife and I seem to just go through the process of being married, its all about the kids.” 

Mental Health Issues in Australia

Mental health issues are common with 20% of the Australian population experiencing a mental health disorder at any time and 45% of the population experiencing mental health issues at some stage in their lives. Depression and anxiety are the two most common disorders at a rate of 14% and 6% respectively. 

Men are at the greatest risk of committing suicide and the least likely to ask for help.  In 2011, men made up 76% of all deaths from suicides, 72% of men who needed help with mental health did not get it.  How does the community help with this?

Community Involvement

Multiple studies have demonstrated a strong link to the level of connection a person in the community (in a gym with other lifters, team sports, good working environments etc) has to improvements in their mental wellbeing. 

Social isolation, poor social support, lack of work and lack of feeling worthwhile are all are related to increased rates of depression and the risk of suicide. There is increasing evidence that engagement in physical activity that has a social component to it decreases the level of mental distress that a person experiences. 

The increase in the social engagement enables men have an environment that enables them to connect with others, express themselves and develop a sense of self and value.  A perception that others value them, their experiences and notice when they are not there and reach out to them to ensure safety and wellbeing, increases men’s sense of well being and decreases the rate of depression and other mental health issues

Physical & Emotional Wellbeing

Joe and I discussed things that may improve both his physical and emotional wellbeing.  We engaged with his wife, to provide support and encouragement for Joe to develop time that was devoted to him, rather than others.  For Joe this was joining a local gym that was supportive of developing connection within the lifting environment, via social gatherings and in-house events. 


University Of Michigan. (1999, August 11). Low Sense Of Belonging Is A Predictor Of Depression. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 1, 2020 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/08/990810164724.htm


Cockshaw, W.D. and Shochet, I. (2010), The link between belongingness and depressive symptoms: An exploration in the workplace interpersonal context. Australian Psychologist, 45: 283-289. doi:10.1080/00050061003752418