How can companionship benefit someone with a disability?
Companionship can improve the negative effects of isolation
The effects of isolation and the issues that worsen the effects
Living with a disability can be very isolating. It can be hard managing the disability itself, as well as all the other responsibilities of life – work, school, groceries, bills etc. The effects of isolation are detailed in study done by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council – those that lived with disability experienced more isolation which was associated with lower wellbeing.
Social media has also been shown to have a strong effect on those living alone; and can lead to mental health issues like anxiety and depression if used excessively or incorrectly in adolescents. As social media is more prevalent in today’s time, it can further worsen the mental health of those currently living in isolation with a disability.
As you can imagine, with the lockdown procedures in place across Australia – those that are already isolated are likely to be even more isolated since the COVID-19 pandemic begun. Many have faced job loss, depression, anxiety and substance abuse as a result of the global pandemic. COVID-19 is another issue that is affecting those living alone with disabilities.
How can companionship benefit?
Based on the information above regarding the negative effects of isolation, it can be quite clear how companionship can benefit those dealing with isolation. It has always been my belief that life is about people, and that humans are extremely social creatures. While there is a time for being alone – being alone may be necessary to reflect, and is necessary for many people especially those who are more inclined toward introversion. However, long periods of isolation will not be sustainable. The benefits of companionship are that it can improve the mental health issues – depression, anxiety, suicide.
I want to stress however, that companionship will not just benefit anyone if the companion you choose is not suitable. If you choose a companion that is rude, disrespectful, doesn’t listen etc. then it will be a terrible option and can even be worse than being isolated. Therefore it is important to choose a companion that understands your disability, the issues associated with it, and shares similar interests with you.
This is why it is important to consider the type of support worker you are working with, as you will likely be spending a lot of time with them. However, it is important to note that support workers can always be changed if you are not happy with your current one. Companionship is also a good idea to have someone accompany you to learn new skills or activities and participate in the community.
Even without a companion, there are now apps nowadays suitable for making friend such as Bumble BFF, Friender or Meetup. These are great options to find those that share similar interests in many categories such as sports, hobbies, social causes etc.
While ideally friendship should be organic; much of the world has changed – social media, COVID-19 and rapidly advancing technology are all factors that make it difficult to maintain contact and fall into isolation.
In conclusion, it is clear the having friendship/companionship is an important factor in mental health and overall wellbeing – something that is crucial for those dealing with disabilities.
NOTE: Those with serious disabilities that require a carer with them at all times are eligible for a companion card from the NDIS. Another option to consider if you want companionship is an assistance animal.