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Keeping mental health in mind during Coronavirus pandemic

8 September 2020

Mental Health Support Services

With COVID-19 having a negative impact on the mental health and wellbeing of many Australians and, in some cases, leading to an increase in alcohol consumption, the need for well-resourced social services has never been greater.

While frontline healthcare providers work tirelessly 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.

Recognising the seriousness of this additional health emergency the federal government has introduced a Coronavirus (COVID-19) National Health Plan to the value of $74 million, which will provide additional funding to existing mental health services, enabling them to respond to the growing needs and concerns of Australians.

In a press conference on 6 August, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said; "I want to encourage people that help is available, and I encourage people to seek out that support through the many mechanisms that are there.”  

Salvos provide vital wellbeing support to families

The Salvation Army has seen mental health as a key area of importance for clients – pre-existing and new – during this pandemic and has stepped up its care for families who are supporting loved ones with mental health or substance abuse issues over this time.

The Salvos’ First Floor program in the Illawarra region of New South Wales provides an holistic, community-based drug, alcohol and mental health service that supports and empowers individuals and their families in the recovery process.

With the onset of COVID-19 and the restrictions that followed, First Floor transitioned Family Connections – their evidence-based program for families with a loved one with Borderline Personality Disorder – to an online video conferencing format via Zoom. This has resulted in an increase in demand for the service with three online groups now running.

The First Floor team are also offering an online service for their See Change training program supporting families, carers or individuals who have a loved one with a drug and/or alcohol or mental health issue.

Psychologist, Maris Depers said the online accessibility of the program has significantly increased its reach; “The real blessing of this is that it has allowed us to side-step geography. We now have people from rural Victoria all the way through to Queensland involved and accessing the training – many of whom had never heard of it before.”

The demand has led to First Floor scheduling session after session since the commencement of the online platform in May. “We’ve trained close to 40 people instead of maybe the five to eight people we’ve had in previous years,” said Maris. “So that’s really special!”

This change is set to greatly increase the impact of the program on communities across Australia with Salvation Army Doorways staff, alcohol and other drugs workers, corps officers and chaplains taking part. 

“Hopefully as restrictions ease, what that will mean is that we will see a number of See Change programs running up and down the country,” said Maris “If we could resource the rest of The Salvation Army [in this way] nothing would make us happier.”

First Floor will be offering another round of training in September.

Access mental health support

The Salvation Army has a range of programs across the country supporting people experiencing isolation, financial stress, alcohol and other drug addiction.

Beyond Blue (1300 22 4636) provide a range of resources and support for people experiencing anxiety and depression, including a 24 hour Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service.

Lifeline (13 11 14) 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 (1800 55 1800) is a 24/7 confidential online counselling service for young people aged 5-25. It also provides helpful information to parents and teachers.


A version of this article first appeared in The Salvation Army’s online magazine

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