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Groundswell Foundation will bring together some of Australia’s most influential and experienced leaders as a closed loop Advisory Committee to address issues associated with mental health and loneliness.

Mental ill-health and loneliness together are widely recognised as a major and increasingly significant social issue in Australia, with young people in particular hit hard by its effects. Mission Australia's Youth Survey Report 2021 highlights just how big an issue this is, with 41.9 per cent of young people extremely or very concerned about mental health.

The Productivity Commission’s Inquiry Report into Mental Health, June 2020 finds that “mental ill-health affects all Australians either directly or indirectly. Almost one in five Australians has experienced mental illness in a given year. Many do not receive the treatment and support they need. As a result, too many people experience preventable physical and mental distress, disruptions in education and employment, relationship breakdown, stigma, and loss of life satisfaction and opportunities.” 

More recently, Mental Health Services Australia's report COVID-19 Impact on Mental Health found that: “The sudden loss of employment and social interaction, and the added stressors of moving to remote work or schooling, and more recently, impacts of sudden, localised ‘lockdowns’ to prevent further outbreaks have impacted the mental health of many Australians.” 

According to the ABC’s 7.30 Report (1 July 2021): “A survey given exclusively to 7.30 by the Australian Association of Psychologists found 83 per cent of psychologists surveyed reported an increase in clients' levels of anxiety, depression and distress during last year's lockdowns."

Social isolation and loneliness can be harmful to both mental and physical health. They are considered significant health and wellbeing issues in Australia because of the impact they have on people's lives. Some of the measures implemented to manage the pandemic, such as physical isolation and lockdowns have, in many cases, exacerbated pre-existing risk factors for social isolation and loneliness, such as living at home.

A study published in May 2021 in the International Journal of Epidemiology confirms the widespread prevalence of loneliness among Australians, one in four of whom report feeling lonely on three or more days a week. The study finds that "the odds of becoming lonely doubled among adults living alone compared with those in a couple... One in four Australian homes were lone-person households in the 2016 Census."

However, the study finds that the effects of loneliness are reduced by as much as half for those adults living alone in areas with more than 30 per cent green space compared with those in areas with less than 10 per cent. According to the study, "Urban greening may reduce loneliness by offering opportunities for solace, social reconnection and supporting processes such as stress relief". This is cause for optimism for the more than 70 per cent of Australians who live in our capital cities: Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney each have targets of 30–40 per cent green cover by 2040 and 2050.

Groundswell Foundation seeks to bring together a group of Australia’s most influential and experienced leaders in a closed loop committee focused on mental health and loneliness. The Advisory Committee will perform a highly valuable and influential advisory role in shaping and monitoring the Groundswell Foundation’s strategic direction, aspirations, performance and external engagement. 

The Committee is integral to the purpose, work and outreach of the Groundswell Foundation in connecting leaders to shape future outcomes in mental health and loneliness in Australia. Drawing upon the influence and reach of its members, the Committee will partner with iHelm to identify, cultivate and nurture collaborative partnerships and build sustainable relationships with business, government, community and organisations to raise awareness of mental health and loneliness.

The Committee will be diverse in terms of gender and the sectors and interests represented. It will be comprised of leading experts, industry leaders and thought leaders who have personally been touched by issues relating to mental health and loneliness. Importantly, members of the Committee have confirmed a strong commitment to positively influencing mental health and loneliness in Australia, to keeping informed of key facts and trends and advocating where appropriate within their own networks, and to dedicating their time to advisory work to generate funds for the Groundswell Foundation.

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