Meaning, Purpose and Connection (MPC) supports older adults dealing with social isolation, loneliness, transition and loss.
To date the project has trained 25 volunteers, from a variety of fields and backgrounds, in the art of ‘walking alongside’ a person in crisis. Integrating principles of spiritual companioning and mindfulness, MPC pairs volunteer practitioners with people referred to us by local healthcare agencies.
In addition to completing a vetting process and a six-part training program, volunteer Social Health Practitioners also participate in regular online reflective practice sessions.
The well received project, which received seed funding from the City of Glen Eira, City of Bayside and Humanists Victoria, will be expanding with the involvement of more healthcare agencies and community organisations.
“I am reminded daily of the power of social connection and its impact on mental health and wellbeing.” – Christeen Waring, Psychologist and Social Health Practitioner
Created by a group of Monash Uni medical students as a response to the COVID-19 health crisis, Conversation in Isolation brings forward volunteers capable of making regularly scheduled phone calls, emails, texts and letters to people impacted by isolation/loneliness.
Social Health became involved with this project last year by facilitating integrated reflective practice for volunteers in the program. This provided opportunities for participants to debrief difficult encounters, refine their deep listening skills and connecting with other volunteers.
This year, we will formally be auspicing Conservation in Isolation and working with its student leadership team to expand the initiative. A new project involving 18 to 25 years impacted by uncertainty and adversity is planned to launch later this year, which will also involve headspace centres in Elsternwick, Bentleigh and Syndal.
“I found the whole experience quite therapeutic and loved the practical elements. It really gave valuable insight into companioning, which I believe will help me engage more deeply with people, including future patients as a doctor, as well as those close to me.” – Nisangi, 5th Year, Monash Medicine, participant of the ‘Conversation in Isolation’ initiative
To assist the Royal Australian Navy in hiring their first practitioners providing pastoral care outside a ministerial context, Social Health created a credentialing model for vetting the first full-time chaplains working outside a ministerial context. The model was co-designed with the assistance of a solutions architect and a national taskforce comprised of four ministers working alongside four people who don’t identify as religious.
This year, Social Health will be working to adapt this model to be able to assess the competencies of volunteer practitioners at the community level who are beginning to support people impacted by isolation/loneliness. The envisioned model should be especially useful for the growing number of medical professionals turning to community organisations via social prescribing to support patients with non-medical issues.
“Social Health Australia is proving that when we put humanity first, we put our difference behind us.” – Nageen Hussain, Social Health Compliance Officer and Credentialing Task Force Member
Social Health is now making available practitioners capable of providing support to people nearing the end of their lives as well as to those dealing with the recent/pending loss of a loved one.
This new companioning initiative has come to the fore because of the growing number of Australians who die or mourn alone. It is also intended to help those who, for any number of reasons, would only be willing to access social-emotional-existential care that if it is not associated with any agenda or ideology.
A key are of focus during the first year of this program will be assisting people who are exploring the use of voluntary assisted dying, now legal in Victoria, and soon to be in other states.
“Companioning is about being present to another person’s pain; it is not about taking away the pain…Mourning is not a solo experience.” – Alan Wolfelt, Author, Psychologist and Grief Specialist