Over the last few years I have become increasingly aware of the importance of developing real senses of community and connection between everyone in our societies. Johann Hari’s book Chasing the Scream was one of the books that kickstarted these ideas in my mind. We are social creatures, and we create the worlds we live in together, through shared efforts and visions. As we have lost our shared visions and isolated our efforts, our communities have suffered, and people have responded with drugs, addiction, and further isolation. We have created an epidemic of disconnection, and we have been facing the consequences for the last several years.
In his book, Hari writes, “The places with the biggest opioid crises are also the places with the highest suicide rates and the highest antidepressant prescriptions—which help us to see that what is really going on is an epidemic of deep disconnection.”
Drug abuse, addiction, and overdose are common across the country, but are not evenly distributed. There are parts of our country where deaths of despair are a major concern and are so prevalent that among some demographics overall life expectancy is decreasing. People are facing incredible challenges, and don’t have the support systems and communities that they need to help them through their challenges. Drugs are a way to blunt the pain, to numb the constant worry, and to try turn off the part of the mind that only sees life as downward spiral. The epidemic of disconnection that we see in our country is self-reinforcing and threatens lives and communities.
We need to find more ways for people to belong, for people to matter, and for people to be engaged in creative endeavors in their community. Isolating ourselves with Netflix, gating off our communities, and building walls between ourselves, our property and the outside world of trouble will only exacerbate the epidemic of disconnection and further the inequalities which lead to our societal problems. We have to find more ways to invest in our communities, to do things together (even in a pandemic), and help encourage people to be responsible to each other and society. We cannot only be responsible to our own homes, families, and bank accounts. In order to combat the opioid crisis, we have to reconnect with people who feel disconnected and isolated, and help fill their lives in ways that opioids never will.