With much of Australia under lockdown or restrictions, Healthy North Coast is reminding people of potential impacts on mental health and how to deal with pandemic pitfalls.
Healthy North Coast delivers the Australian Government’s PHN program from Tweed Heads to Port Macquarie and inland. The organisation recently partnered with 89 Degrees East to conduct a short online community consultation that attracted more than 1,000 respondents.
The survey responses showed the impact of lockdowns, isolation and social distancing on families, communities, friends and workplaces was a clear source of anxiety and loss for many.
Pleasingly though, a significant number of respondents reported their situations were unchanged, while a smaller percentage had even seen improvements, proving the old adage that every dark cloud has a silver lining.
69% reported their physical health stayed the same or improved, while the financial position of 73% was unchanged or better. On the work front, 69% said their situation was the same or better than before.
COVID-19 has had the greatest impact on connections with family and friends, with 63% rating them worse than before COVID and just 10% noting an improvement. Similarly, when asked about their lifestyle, 53% rated it worse, 34% said there was no change and 14% reported an improvement.
50% of respondents said their mental health was unchanged, 7% said it was better, but 43% reported a decline.
Healthy North Coast Chief Executive Julie Sturgess said familiar threads were woven through many responses from across the region.
‘People had a desire to travel and attend live music events,’ Ms Sturgess said. ‘They missed the liberties and freedoms once taken for granted and looked forward to having them restored. They also hoped for economic and social recovery.
‘COVID has affected us all in different ways but it’s heartening to see not everyone has suffered. I encourage those who are doing it toughest to seek support.’
When people were asked in the survey what they most looked forward to, typical comments included:
‘Freedom. To make personal choices and not have to check a government website to find out what is ok.’
‘Freedom to travel, attend concerts, hug my friends, see ageing parents.’
‘Seeing the hospitality, tourism and entertainment sectors recover as they have been a vital source of employment, especially for young people.’
The small daily annoyances grated on many, like one person who wrote: ‘I can’t wait to walk into work and not need my temperature checked.’
And a sentiment echoed by many: ‘Looking forward to improved health outcomes for all peoples of the world and those who have experienced COVID-19.’
Ms Sturgess said mental health support was just a phone call or a mouse click away. One of the services she recommends is Connect to Wellbeing.
‘Anyone young or old can find themselves in need of some help and guidance,’ she said. ‘Connect to Wellbeing offers a single point of contact to connect you with the right mental health support, information or a service that best suits your need.
‘Trained staff can provide you with information about, or referral to, the service that’s most appropriate for you. This includes any one of the many mental health, alcohol and other drugs, or NDIS support services located across the North Coast.’
To get in touch with Connect to Wellbeing, call 1300 160 339, Monday to Friday 8:30 am – 5:00 pm, or email [email protected]. For more information and to find out about available support, visit https://nc.connecttowellbeing.org.au/
Ms Sturgess said there are things we can all do to contribute to positive mental health and wellbeing. These include getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, avoiding excessive use of alcohol or other drugs, eating a balanced diet, and maintaining social relationships.
Healthy North Coast funds Connect to Wellbeing through the North Coast PHN program. It is not a crisis service. For immediate 24/7 support contact:
- Mental Health Access Line 1800 011 511
- Lifeline 13 11 14
- Beyond Blue 1300 224 636
- Kids Helpline (for children under 12 years) 1800 551 800
- Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467
- Open Arms (Veterans & Families Counselling) 1800 011 046
- Mensline Australia 1300 789 978
In an emergency call 000 or go to your nearest hospital emergency department