Keeping mental health in mind during Coronavirus pandemic - One year on
2 September 2021
The Salvation Army is working hard to maintain connections and support Australians through current COVID-19 restrictions. From mental and financial wellbeing, to helping families with day-to-day essentials, we remain ready to meet people at their point of need.
When 2020 was finally over, the new year brought with it a sense of positivity and hope for a return to normality. But with the return of tight restrictions, lockdowns and surges in COVID-19 cases across much of the country, many of those hopes were dashed. It’s no wonder the mental health and wellbeing of Australians is suffering.
While frontline healthcare providers work tirelessly administering vaccines and tending to Covid-positive patients, mental health workers are waging a parallel battle against the side-effects brought on by the unrelenting virus. Extreme stress, anxiety and isolation are a common theme as individuals’ movements and social connections are restricted like never before.
But there is always hope – if you are struggling, please know that you don’t have to struggle alone. The Salvation Army has a range of services and resources available to help you through these tough times.
Connect with your local Salvos
While we may have to remain physically distant, local Salvos across Australia are supporting community members to stay connected, feel cared for and remain positive.
Aware of how fatigue and isolation was impacting the mental health of many in her community Craigieburn Salvos Lieutenant Jacqueline Gluyas has restarted weekly ‘Zoom Connect’ meetings online. These meetings are providing people with an opportunity to break out from the tedium of lockdown and be amongst friends.
“We keep it simple and open it up for people to share a win that they’ve had and a struggle that needs prayer,” Jacqueline says. “We try to have fun and keep some laughter in there, especially for people who are on their own or don’t have work right now.”
Lockdown isolation has been especially challenging for the recovery community at Canberra City Salvos, and Lieutenant Mitchell Stevens and his team are working hard to keep everyone connected and moving forward with positivity.
A box of free essentials is also stocked at the front of the corps for anyone in need. “Last year, we started our community box – it’s got books, toiletries and non-perishable goods in there. It gets used quite a bit,” says Mitchell. “Before restrictions, we held community days on Monday and Friday with all our different services. Now we help people by passing out hampers along with financial assistance.”
Keep the kids active and engaged
Lockdown has reduced opportunities for families to come together, with social interaction for children drastically limited. Concerns are growing around kids’ mental health and the long-term impacts caused by living with uncertainty and in isolation.
Many of our corps are reaching out to families and putting together special packs to keep kids engaged.
“Our families love these packs and look forward to receiving them each week. We may not be able to see them face-to-face, but there are so many different ways we can connect; this is just one way and what a difference it is making to our families,” says ‘mainly music’ leader Robyn Foy.
The Salvation Army’s national kids’ magazine Kidzone is also packed full of fun ways to entertain children. Enter colouring competitions, cook fun dishes, get creative with craft activities, and much more.
Be mindful of youth
Things can be especially tough for youth. Switching to online learning during high school is challenging when juggling a range of topics and teachers. On top of that all extra-curricular activities have been cancelled, meaning youth are left with very little social time and physical activity.
We can’t change what is happening, all we can do is manage it. Here’s a few ways to stay focussed and keep negative thoughts away:
- While we don’t know what the immediate future will hold, we do know that we will get there – now is a time to look to the long-term and keep planning for your future.
- If you’re getting on TikTok, stick to dances and avoid conspiracy theories and badly researched ‘news’, don’t get drawn into negativity. That goes for all social media!
- Stay connected with friends online but keep things positive – don’t forget, anything you write or publish online can be shared!
- Remain active! Our mental health is influenced by our physical health – we still get a few hours activity outdoors, be sure to use it.
- Take care of your spiritual self, be that through prayer or mindful meditation. You’ll feel more centred and lighter by taking the time to do this.
Many Salvos centres have great youth programs. Reach out to your local salvos and see how they can provide support during these frustrating times.
Take control of your finances with Moneycare
The Salvation Army’s Moneycare team of financial counsellors have been working around the clock since the COVID-19 pandemic began. With lost and reduced incomes putting a strain on an already stressful situation, our counsellors are here to provide guidance on how to get through.
Along with growing concerns over money, it is natural to feel a significant increase in emotional stress. With uncertainty around how long restrictions will last, knowing what financial decisions to make can be a lifeline for those who are worried about their finances.
Right across the country, Moneycare financial counsellors are assisting community members experiencing many forms of financial stress, along with those who have either completely or partially lost their incomes due to the pandemic.
While the situation is extremely stressful right now there is always hope. Financial counsellors have the knowledge and experience to provide a range of options for managing financial stress now, and to better prepare for the future.
“We’re there every step of the way,” says Jill McKinlay, financial counsellor for Caboolture Moneycare. “We start right off drawing up a money plan with people, working through options and then sometimes, if need be, we’re supporting people to talk with their banks.”
Moneycare financial counselling is free and confidential. It provides options, clarity, advocacy and support for people experiencing financial difficulty, debt, or a sudden change in circumstances. No one has to struggle through this alone, the help is there – and it works.
Get emergency relief through Doorways
When times are tough, we all need a little help. The Salvation Army Doorways program is here for Australians in difficult times like these. Each year, across the country, thousands of individuals and families come to the Salvos for help meeting day-to-day expenses or paying unexpected bills.
We help people experiencing difficulty to meet their immediate needs, but Doorways is so much more than simply the delivery of emergency relief – it serves community members through early intervention, crisis and ongoing support.
Through case management, referrals (internal and external) and material aid, alongside programs like Moneycare, family and parenting programs, literacy, Positive Lifestyle, community meals and more, we journey with individuals to overcome life’s challenges.
Access mental health support services
The Salvation Army has a range of programs across the country supporting people experiencing isolation, financial stress, alcohol and other drug addiction.
Beyond Blue provide resources and support for people experiencing anxiety and depression.
Lifeline provides 24/7 crisis support and suicide prevention services to Australians in emotional distress.
Headspace provides mental health advice and support for young people.
Kids Helpline is a 24/7 confidential online counselling service for young people aged 5-25. It also provides helpful information to parents and teachers.