I must admit to our community I have found this week’s blog incredibly hard to write. By the time this blog is live, no matter what part of the world you call home, you would have heard of the devastating tragedy that rocked Australia, in particular, Brisbane to its core this week.
On the morning of the 19th of February, a loving mother and her three beautiful children were taken from this world. They were taken in such a horrific way by an act performed by their very own father. Over the past 24 hours, I have constantly questioned myself and my inner community, how and why did this happen? Where have we, as a community, played a role in allowing monstrous acts like this to take place?
I will hold my punches for now, as this is not the forum for personal opinion. However, through times of heartache and tragedy, we must always look inwards to ourselves and our society. To see where we could have, or can now play a part in, ensuring situations like this don’t arise again in the future. One element I continue to land on in these moments of reflection is human connection. I have read time and time again from the man’s friends that they didn’t see this side of him. I myself have crossed paths with him in this very small and tight knit fitness community within Brisbane and would never have imagined this happening. Yet, it has. The feeling of guilt, anger and sheer pain are very raw and also very real to a lot of the community.
I ask whether the lack of real, honest human connection played a role in this monstrous act. The man’s mental health situation will never excuse what he has done, nor should it even be a question for discussion. My question isn’t, if we really knew him could we have stopped him. My question is, if we really knew him, could we have saved the beautiful mother and her darling children from ever being put in this situation.
Let me explain a little further. You see in today’s technology age, we are the most digitally connected we have ever been. Yet we are the most disconnected we have ever been as human beings. As a society we now prioritise checking in on our friends. The problem here is that most of us are doing this via a quick text message or a phone call. A level of technology that is easy to hide the truth from. To look someone in the eye, sit next to them and express you are fine when your inner mind is screaming out for help is much, much harder.
Don’t get me wrong, the improvements and implementation of technology in our society have brought with it exponential positives. We can Facetime a loved one on the other side of the world, we can defend against disease and we can build skyscrapers that punch through the clouds. What we can’t do (thanks to technology) is have a face to face connection with another human being without the distraction of technology. A buzz on our wrist or a ping from our phone. Everywhere we look and go, it’s there.
Before you read further I want you to know I understand the contradiction staring us in the face right now. Me writing this for you to read online whilst at the same time giving technology a bad wrap. I want to be clear, I am a fan of the new era of technology. Where I would be without the ability to be constantly checking my online banking to see if I can afford the extra shot of coffee or not, I just don’t know. That being said, when technology is getting in the way of our human need to connect with one another, we have a problem.
So here are my five tips to connect as human beings, not as digital avatars.
1) Putting your phone screen down when you are sitting down with someone is equally as insulting as having it face up. You may as well tell them ‘Hey I know we are connecting right now, however, my phone ranks higher than you in my list of priorities.’ Leave it in your pocket, better yet leave it in your car or office.
2) ‘Hey, what are you doing?’ Is not checking in on your friends. This is what 18 year olds send to their friends when the club closes and they are not ready to stop the party. Dig deeper, if you can’t connect face to face, pick up the phone. Listen to the tone of their voice if it’s lower and slower or higher and faster then usual this is a sign something is not quite right. Find out what that is.
3) Listen, don’t solve. Online support chatbots are for solving problems. Friends are for listening, absorbing and sitting next to someone as they solve their problems for themself. Unless you are directed by your friend to solve their problem, chances are they just want to vent and someone to listen. Perhaps be the bumper rail when they get a little stray but never solve their problem alone.
4) Learn to read between the lines. Depression and anxiety can be like an out of sync Youtube video. Their voice or audio is saying one thing but it doesn’t match up at all with what their body is telling you. If you feel like they aren’t telling you the truth, chances are they’re not. Find out why and find out what the truth is.
5) Alcohol, contrary to what many believe, is not a lubricant to the truth. Having a few casual drinks is not the only way to support your friend who you are worried about. Get outdoors, smell the roses. Feel the sand between your toes and connect under the morning sun. Exercise and endorphins go hand in hand. Simply put, when we move, we feel better. Take your loved one, your friend or your community member you are worried about out for a walk in nature and ask them how they are, beneath the surface.
I hope this resonates with you and you take action. We are losing too many brothers and sisters in today’s world. The time for human connection is now more than ever. Hold your loved ones tight and remind them how special and important they are. We never know how long we have left.
RIP to Hannah are her three beautiful children. May your legacy live on forever in our hearts and minds.
If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression contact beyondblue on 1300224636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust. If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.