Today being the first of July, if you turn your radio to Triple M, you will hear nothing: no voices, no adverts, no music, no news, nada. The reason for this is for a campaign that they are a part of, to get people talking. People who suffer from mental health issues, or other serious personal crises, often suffer in silence, and so Triple M has also gone silent today to remind people to get talking.
I think that it is a brilliant campaign... and ultimately somewhat flawed.
In the twenty-first century, one of the great ironies is that despite the interconnectedness of everyone through the internet, there are many people who say that they have no close friends. Either through circumstance, or that weird thing that happens to people in their 30s and 40s where life tends to make that lack of closeness all the more stark, by the time that people reach 40, 50, and 60, they have fewer friends. Beyond 60, there is a natural die off of people's friendship networks as people literally die.
Probably a lot of this has to do with personality. There are just some people who although they might be perfectly pleasant, and who don't project enough of their personality that beyond functional human interaction, other people just don't genuinely care about them. Everyone tends to gravitate towards those people who are naturally bubbly and vivacious but for a lot of quieter people, they simply aren't treated as worth the effort.
Once upon a time, we used to do community as a society, a whole lot better. Active membership of clubs, associations, churches, and community groups, extends to only about 11% of the population.
As those natural connected networks do not seem to work for as many people as they once did, the level of aloneness has skyrocketed.
I am a straight white male aged 35-55. The number of people who are aged within ten years older or younger than me, whom I speak to on a regular basis (that is for more than 15 minutes, without being connected to work) is 3. As this is less than 10, that means that statistically, I am a prime candidate for suicide, which is the most obvious expression of a lack of connectedness. Due to other factors, I manage to escape the statistical black hole but I should in theory serve as an object lesson; I am also the sort of person who is statistically a listener of Triple M.
The underlying problem is precisely that. The people who are likely to commit suicide, almost never feel they can talk openly about suicide or their mental health; and even if they did, they are far less likely to actually have anyone that they can talk to.
It is an invisible problem. If you go to the A&E department with a broken leg, everyone can see that you have a broken leg but if you are broken on the inside, nobody sees that at all.
The thing is though, that whilst I might have escaped the statistical black hole, there are many people who have not. The root cause of all of this is that the world is complex and most people are too busy fighting the struggles in their own lives, to really pay that much attention and care about the problems facing other people. That isn't necessarily an act of active coldness, it is just the way it is; hence the reason for Triple M falling silent today.
The best expression of what the aim of the campaign wants to do today, would be for people to seek out the forgotten people. That in principle is a harder ask than the question posed by "R U OK? Day" where it is assumed that you are already in contact and aware of the problems of other people.
Thhis is why I think that it is ultimately flawed. The people who are lost and lonely, generally know that they are lost and lonely but don't know the way out. Their phone doesn't ring, except for nuisance calls, and they are unlikely to ring out on it. They are also likely to be hiding behind a veil of complete normality because they're hardly likely to advertise the fact that.
The aim of the campaign by Triple M today, is for you to ring them.