Updated: Sep 13
We’ve learned a few things from the pandemic. We’ve learned the importance of community, and like it or loathe it, that technology has its place within that. We’ve learned we need to take mental health seriously but that we have a huge capacity for resilience. As the world pushes to snap back to familiar routines and order, this resilience is being tested. Vaccination rates mean that living with COVID is possible, but it isn’t necessarily easy. In every area of our lives, whether it’s raising kids, looking after family, making a living, wrangling pets or getting through the day alone, we are feeling the pressure. But there are things that we can do to ease that, and some are unexpected.
Helping others to help yourself
There are many studies which show that people who volunteer or actively support others are happier. Last year, the University of British Columbia conducted a study which suggested older people who volunteered or supported others during the pandemic reported higher instances of positive emotions, lower rates of negative emotions and generally more satisfaction within their personal relationships. These feelings of wellbeing applied to formalised volunteering as well as informal emotional support, such as providing a listening ear to someone who needed it.
This is somewhat different from some pre-pandemic studies which often showed that receiving help - particularly help which was not asked for - could lead to feelings of incompetence, powerlessness and heightened symptoms of depression. However, during the pandemic, which was a huge and collective psychological stressor for everyone, reaching out and accepting help became normalised and, on the whole, welcomed. We found that during an uncontrollable and unpredictable event that just having someone listen to us vent - and not rush in with suggestions or fixes - made us feel better. And this was amplified when that role became reciprocal, such as a conversation with a friend, where we could both provide and receive support.
In Clunes we are spoiled for volunteer choice. Why not register your skills at www.clunesnh.org, browse just a few of the volunteer roles available in Clunes (including at the Clunes Football and Netball Club, the Clunes Museum, Attitude and Clunes Neighbourhood House), or ask to be introduced to one of the many groups in town who might have a volunteer role for you?
The pandemic changes
The pandemic impacted on some of our usual support systems and structures - perhaps especially for those of us outside metro areas where services were already stretched. But that impact has not solely been negative, and these structures are still adapting and evolving with the changes brought about by the pandemic.
For example, telehealth appointments look as though they are here to stay as GP services struggle with the sheer number of patients across Australia in winter. Psychology telehealth appointments were virtually non-existent a few years ago, and now means that geography doesn’t necessarily prohibit access to good mental health care. Inner Psych(www.innerpsych.co/) is one example of an enterprise who provide remote psychology and counselling services exclusively via phone or video.
Find it hard to do this? Maybe your internet signal is bad? You don’t have a smart phone or the internet at all? Call Clunes Neighbourhood House on 53454078. We have rooms you can use for telehealth appointments and free wi-fi access (at all hours) that you can register for.
More support options
There are a plethora of other support options too. Some of which have sprouted during the pandemic, others of which have been around for a while but have taken on a renewed importance for their ease of access.
● ADAVIC - Anxiety Disorders Association of Victoria
www.adavic.org.au houses a mountain of helpful resources, it is their moderated and very active Facebook Group (www.facebook.com/adavic.org.au) which has become a touchstone for those looking for extra encouragement, suggestions and different perspectives on anxiety and depression. Members can also directly message admins for more specialised and concentrated support. ADAVIC also holds regular online support groups via Zoom with small groups experiencing different types of anxiety including agoraphobia, and generalised anxiety and depression. There is also anonymous phone support available. Though membership is encouraged, phone and Facebook services are completely free.
This Victorian based organisation is innovative, and highly professional. The moderated facebook group is a game changer for people needing to touch base (safely) at all hours.
GROW is a program which provides mental health support, similar to a 12-step self-help program for people with anxiety, depression or other mental and emotional distress. The eGROW (www.grow.org.au/egrow) program uses Zoom to connect in small groups to provide and receive mental health support and is free of charge.
● Mental Health Online
Free of charge, the Mental Health Online (www.mentalhealthonline.org.au/) initiative provides comprehensive online services and programs for those experiencing mental distress. Creating an account offers access to their online mental health assessment, treatment programs and eTherapists.
● Monash University - Maintaining a Mindful Life
This short course (www.futurelearn.com/courses/mindfulness-life) teaches anyone how to apply mindfulness techniques to improve communication, relationships and emotional health. The self-paced course takes place online over several weeks through a series of readings and videos. The course can be accessed for free, though it can also be purchased for unlimited access.
Interested in this, but not sure you want to do it alone? Clunes Neighbourhood House is organising a ‘group’ session so why can call 53454078 and express interest.
● LifeLine - 13 11 14
www.lifeline.org.au provides free crisis support via phone, online or text chats. This incredible service is available 24/7 providing support for those in their darkest moments, or those who are concerned about someone experiencing severe emotional distress.
So what are the takeaways here?
- If you’re feeling lonely or disconnected, reaching out to a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while, or finding opportunities to connect with others (potentially through formal volunteering) is worth the effort. The statistics say so lol.
- Further help is always at hand, maybe in places or ways you haven’t considered, no matter where you live or what time of the day or night. Connecting with these groups might also teach you new skills or tools which you can carry into the future, even after the pandemic is a long distant memory.
Author: Lana de Kort
Supported by the Community Response Fund, Victorian State Government