“They say in a small town everyone knows each other, and everyone helps each other. “That’s wrong.”

A few years ago, Allen moved across the country to Broken Hill in outback NSW to care for his sick grandfather, leaving his immediate family, his friends and his job behind.

“He passed away in his sleep,” says Allen. “I was devastated. He was the main person in my family that really cared.”

Suddenly all alone, Allen became extremely isolated.

For two years, the only time Allen left the house was to buy groceries and to check the mailbox.

“I didn’t speak to anyone for over a week at one stage. I wasn’t leaving the house at all. I got to the point where I was nearly talking to myself.”

Allen

It was at this low point in Allen’s life that Mission Australia’s Connections program came into the picture.

Connections links lonely people to community activities in the evening and over weekends. This is the time when people often turn to hospitals as their only option for support.

The program is run by peer support workers – people who can draw on their own personal experiences of mental health issues and recovery to support participants.

Sessions range from catch ups at a local café to fun activities like trivia, cooking, scrapbooking, movie nights and even karaoke. There’s also a weekly life skills class to help the participants in their daily lives. By reducing hospital bed time for Connections’ most regular attendees, the program has led to savings of $760,000 for the health system in just six months.

For Allen, Connections has completely turned his life around.

“I don’t really know myself now. I’ve changed dramatically, drastically.”

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Purpose - 'Inspired by Jesus Christ, Mission Australia exists to meet human need and to spread the knowledge of the love of God'