Why it's time for South Australia to take a happy pill

11 Dec 2017
Why it's time for South Australia to take a happy pill

Shaking off the doldrums is key to South Australia moving forward and welcoming new opportunities, says the head of the state’s world-leading resilience hub.

SAHMRI Wellbeing and Resilience Centre’s Gabrielle Kelly says it is vital widespread pessimism reflected in the Sunday Mail’s survey is turned around. A case in point, more than 65 per cent of respondents answered “no” to the question “Do you think your children or grandchildren will enjoy a better standard of living than you do?”.

Ms Kelly says while she understands why people are feeling uncertain and concerned, it is crucial to look forward with a “growth” mindset.

“We need to have young people who feel optimistic and resilient about the future,” she said. “(While it’s true) we are in a time of economic and industrial transition, you can either look at what is possible, or what you’ve lost ... my view is, and the evidence shows quite clearly, that you can build optimism in yourself and other people (and) get a better outcome for all of us.

“If we understand the time we are in and the opportunities that are available now in Asia, Southeast Asia, China, India and Australia, and if we develop our children so they are capable of using that opportunity, then I am very optimistic about the standard of living increasing for our children and grandchildren. But if we base (our expectations) on a time when we were able to live off the agricultural dollar, off the mining dollar and think that’s going to be the way of the future, it won’t.”

Ms Kelly says it is important to lead by example.

“If mums and dads and grandparents are sitting around the kitchen table being negative all of the time, we will train children who are negative and frightened,” she said.

“But if we can support each other to have a more optimistic, better-informed view of the future – and I don’t mean a Pollyanna foolishness – then it is possible for things to move in that direction.”

SAHMRI’s Wellbeing and Resilience Centre successfully worked with many Holden employees to build resilience ahead of the closure of the Elizabeth production line.

“The evidence is really clear that everyone can build their wellbeing, resilience and psychological strength so that when challenges emerge we are better equipped to deal with them,” she said.

Leading social commentator Mark McCrindle agrees it is time for a proactive stance to “get us out of this current rut we are in as a nation”.

He says national studies mirror the findings of the Adelaide survey where many people are feeling disillusioned and issues such as unemployment, cost of living and a lack of political leadership are commonly emerging.

“Certainly a constant theme that comes up is discontent with political leaders at every level and it isn’t to do with one side of politics or the other ... I think our trust in leadership generally, whether it be politics, big business or sporting identities has been eroded,” he said. “(Yet) we do need that bold, positive vision to help us move forward as a nation.”

And he says it is worth reflecting on positives.

“The technology we enjoy, the lifestyle we continually enjoy, our culture, our community cohesion ... we have innovation where people can start their own business and earn a few dollars through the gig economy,” he said.

“It probably comes down to us taking a good hard look at ourselves and getting back to some of that good old Aussie ingenuity and optimism.”

This story was reproduced with permission from The Advertiser.