social isolation

Stephen Andrew statement on social isolation and loneliness inquiry

From the beginning, it was clear that lockdowns and harsh social restrictions were going to have enormous collateral damages when it came to people’s feelings of well-being and mental health – things that are often hard to see but are nevertheless very real. At the outset, however, much was unknown about the virus and I, like many others, accepted our political leaders’ argument, that the benefits of their policies, though historically unprecedented and draconian, still outweighed the consequences. I am no longer prepared to accept this.
The impacts we are seeing on those living alone or with no family in Queensland, on those who are old, young, migrant, poor or with limited social networks has been devastating to say the least, and largely unrecorded by the daily media. Many studies have linked forced isolation and social restrictions to significant cognitive decline, loss of self-esteem, and feelings of extreme loneliness, social disconnection and despair. Human beings are social creatures. They crave to be around others face to face through daily interactions at work and socially. It is also essential that those interactions occur in a relaxed, natural way, unconstrained by division or fear. Confining people to their homes, depriving them of human contact at work, the pub or local church, telling them not to hug or kiss their friends, talk to their neighbours or visit aged family members, has done untold psychological damage and harm and simply has to stop.
The Community Support and Services Committee are conducting an Inquiry into and reporting on social isolation and loneliness in Queensland. While passing reference is made to the “interplay of Covid-19”, the entire focus of the Inquiry’s brief is on LONG-STANDING ‘drivers and factors’ and ‘identity’ groups. What is glaringly missing is the urgent need to look at and assess the long-term consequences to people’s mental health after suffering through eighteen months of snap lockdowns, forced social confinement, mask mandates, missed/ruined life milestones (graduations, funerals, baptisms, weddings, honeymoons), business shutdowns, job losses, worsening government surveillance, propaganda and censorship, inconsistent border closures, and the ongoing dismantling of civil society.
One GP said in a letter to the Victorian Premier last year: “I have never in my 15 years of general practice, seen such devastation with people’s mental health”. Parents, children and young adults, she wrote, are “in anguish, despair and have no hope”. Instead of addressing the seriousness of what is happening, the Government’s TOR recites all the usual SDG rubbish about ‘identifying risk factors’, ‘leveraging mitigation strategies’ and addressing ‘drivers and impacts of social isolation and loneliness across Queensland’.
As I said in my own Submission:
“Government and experts are ready to admit that the current signs of mental suffering and distress within the Queensland population is a serious problem, but few seem willing to discuss the most obvious cause of it or the most obvious solution, which is to call an end to all the cruel and coercive government lockdowns, harsh measures and general fear-mongering that are destroying the mental health of ALL Queenslanders.”
CLOSING DATE FOR SUBMISSIONS – 5:00pm, Wednesday 18 August 2021.
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