We are living in a climate of anxiety, isolation and consistent upheavals to our daily routines, it’s no shock that many of us will have had our sense of community severely affected over the past year and a half.
It could be argued that we all have more in common than ever before. Not a single person will have escaped the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether it’s physical, emotional or financial fallout, we’ve all been bound by a unifying experience. While we may be unified by our shared experiences of uncertainty and isolation, many of us are also experiencing mental health challenges brought on, or exacerbated, by the circumstances in which we are currently living.
No one left behind
The Black Dog Institute recently reported that common consequences of disease outbreaks include anxiety, panic, depression, anger, confusion and uncertainty, and financial stress, “with estimates of between 25% to 33% of the community experiencing high levels of worry and anxiety.” These experiences can be compounded in people with pre-existing mental illnesses. Those who have been living with mental illness have been at increased risk of experiencing higher levels of anxiety and distress during COVID-19, with others developing mental health problems for the first time.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us the ongoing importance of social connection and community. While common supports, such as friends, family and work, have been considerably impacted, we can all play an important role in contributing to the wellbeing of the people around us. The ways we engage and connect with one another may have changed, but we continue to be well placed to notice if someone we know is going through a difficult time.
Connecting through Mental Health First Aid
More than one year since the start of the pandemic, many people are still working and living in ways that can be isolating - especially those affected by recurring lockdowns and restrictions.
It is often a family member or community connection who first notices that a person may be experiencing a mental health problem. While many people may recognise the signs of a mental health problem, they often don’t know how to approach the person or how to provide appropriate support. As many of us are still living with restrictions, it is important to think about how we can provide important support – whether virtually or in person – to people within our community.
This is where Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Australia can help.
Mental health first aid is the initial help offered to someone who is experiencing a mental health problem or crisis. MHFA Australia offers a suite of early-intervention education courses that increase mental health literacy and teach the practical skills needed to support someone experiencing a mental health problem. People who complete a course go on to be empowered members of the community who can appropriately respond to others who are experiencing mental health problems.