This month Fiona Browning investigates what “Connection” means to mental health well-being as part of the “CHIME” model, which is explored in the second instalment in this series.

Being a “Gen Xer” means I’ve been there to watch the rise and evolution of the internet age. When I was 13, the first clues of an internet were coming into being. Then just eight years later, in 1989, the “WWW” of the World-Wide-Web was released by CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research.

So, how is this relevant to this blog post? I’ve been pondering what “Connection” means to mental health and wellbeing, as it’s the first element of CHIME, which we are exploring in this online series.

I’m a science geek, so when I think of connection I think of the “Six Degrees of Separation Theory”, which claims that every single living person can be connected to any other living person on this planet through a chain of acquaintances of six links or less. When I asked my 20-something kids, “what does connection mean for you?” I was told, “well obviously it is dependent on variables such as how strong is your signal, are you in range, are you on the right network and is the modem plugged in and turned on.” I laughed because apart from the modem, those variables can have many perspectives. 

When I’m at my “really unwell”, mental-health speaking, I feel like my brain has only one signal; it is not in tune with anyone else and I need my network to be highly supportive and easiest to connect with. Who and what comprises this may change but the need for connection is constant. Without connection I don’t do well.

So where do I find this? Connection isn’t always obvious. I love simple life moments: in a shopping centre food court, watching a baby smiling and laughing at a balloon, and you smile too because for that moment you are connected; travelling on a train or tram when you see someone rushing to make it on… if they do, you share their relief and if they don’t, their frustration. We may not realise it, but we connect because humans are generally empathetic creatures. Sometimes the connection is much more obvious. History is full of these moments… when WWII was finally over, when Elvis died, when the Berlin wall came down and in my recent lifetime, events like 9/11 and the rescue of the Beaconsfield miners. We can be with complete strangers and yet through these events we are connected.

But I digress. Why is connection so important to our mental health well-being and what does it look like? We invite you to read on and see what some lived-experience peers think. And if you’d like to share your thoughts, post something on the Facebook page. 

E.g. An example of random quote from a Google search. Dr Eddie Murphy - Clinical psychologist and mental health campaigner (dreddiemurphy.ie). “Fundamentally we are social animals. We all need connection. Isolation and loneliness set the conditions for despair and depression. Feeling connected allows us to feel a sense of belonging, wanted and cherished.”