‘Social isolation’ predisposes us to depression. Hence, the significantly higher incidence in the unemployed, single or divorced.
Whoever these ‘socially isolated’ are, they must live somewhere. They must have neighbours. I remember a time when neighbours used to take care of one another. But that no longer seems to happen. Is it really because people are preoccupied with their fitness programmes and television sets, cars and computers?
Even in the poorest villages, people drop in with whatever they have. Mostly, their time and empathy which is enough. It is ironic that as people get richer they cut themselves off from the richness of life.
Is falling ill or feeling low something to be shameful of? In some cultures “altruistic” self-sacrifice is encouraged among the elderly and the sick. Among the Yuit Eskimos of St Lawrence Island, if an individual requested suicide 3 times, relatives were obliged to assist in their killing. The person was dressed in a ritual death garb and was then killed at a place specifically marked for this purpose. To save resources such as food or to allow a nomadic community to move on, some societies gave approval to suicide.
We are given to believe that such rituals only existed in primitive cultures. Yet we isolate the sick, the vulnerable and the different even today. Same thing. Isn’t it?