The power of connection
Even with physical distancing, there’s a great need to stay social and connected.
Australia's leading online mental health organisation, ReachOut Australia, is providing access to resources to help safeguard your family's wellbeing during these particularly challenging times.
7 April, 2020
ReachOut now has a range of resources related to COVID-19 and we’ll be updating those as emotional rhythms shift over time and as we learn, we will continually adapt to the needs of the community
Between bushfires, droughts and now COVID-19, our nation is certainly demonstrating its resilience, with individuals and families facing unique challenges. With adjustments announced daily, we’re being asked to recalibrate on the fly and try to come to terms with how various economic announcements and Government restrictions will impact our tomorrow. It’s fatiguing, it can leave people in a state of limbo, and it carries significant mental health implications.
Audi Foundation partner, ReachOut, is Australia’s leading online mental health organisation for young people and their parents. It is in the business of helping people stay connected and has added to its service information and practical strategies for those needing immediate support in the face of COVID-19. From self-help content, through to community forums, and free personalised professional one-on-one support for parents, ReachOut’s resources abound and are meeting a huge and ongoing need within the community to date.
“Over the past three weeks ReachOut's content about COVID-19 has been viewed over 60,000 times and peer support conversations on our forums have been viewed over 2,500 times. So, there’s a huge need out there,” explains ReachOut CEO Ashley de Silva.
“ReachOut now has a range of resources related to COVID-19 and we’ll be updating those as emotional rhythms shift over time and as we learn, we will continually adapt to the needs of the community. Whether you’re a young person or a parent, there’ll always be up-to-date, evidence- based information that’s full of tips and articles or stories of other people available via our service.”
As a collective we’re in uncharterred waters and it can be hard to know how to help young people deal with current pressures. Ashley cites, that the tips ReachOut focus on, are as pertinent to our youth as they are for adults.
“Often in times of challenge it’s important to think about the basics first and while they sound simple, they do require real dedication and practice. It’s really around staying active and helping people to work through what their physical activity looks like. It’s knowing that connection at these times is really important; and it’s working through physical distance with social connection and reimagining that with technology. It’s keeping an eye on news consumption, because the news cycle on this is thick and fast and while there’s a need to know information, you need to protect yourself from being overwhelmed, particularly on social media.”
The effects of COVID-19 are vast. Indeed, ReachOut are hearing stories of young people, particularly those in Year 12, who feel concerned with how COVID-19 will impact their final results. Many of them wonder, now that they have left school if they will actually return to experience the rite of passage around their finishing ceremonies. While ReachOut is not an education provider, and the school and education landscape are yet to be fully resolved from an emotional perspective, ReachOut believes that the importance of officially finishing something won’t be lost on institutions and organisations.
As a collective we’re in uncharterred waters and it can be hard to know how to help young people deal with current pressures
While you might feel concerned around how you parent right now, it’ll be an asset to you if you’ve thought about your own mental health and wellbeing
“I’m not sure what the education answers will be but we’re seeing it already in the way the Government is responding to stimulus packages – the first response isn’t always the last response. We’re yet to see how these young people will celebrate their milestones – undoubtedly for this particular cohort of students, this will be a story that they have for the rest of their lives in terms of how different they are to any other cohort before.”
For parents, knowing how to discuss COVID-19 with their kids can be difficult. Ashley reiterates the importance of considering your own wellbeing prior to these discussions. “While you might feel concerned around how you parent right now, it’ll be an asset to you if you’ve thought about your own mental health and wellbeing. Not only will this help you, but you will role model the adaptability and the reimagining of routines that you need, in order to support your kids through this.”
Naturally, it’s important to consider the tone and timing of these conversations so you can share the right amount of data in a way that offers hope and information to help young people better understand the full picture.
“Think about doing it at a quiet time. It could be nice to do that in a shared activity so while cooking dinner for example. It’s important to add perspective that your children and your family aren’t alone and that there’s both support from you for them. Also from the family context there’s still support available out there and to encourage if not role model some of the ways you’ve sought support,” suggests Ashley.
“We’re seeing the impacts from COVID-19 on mental illness already because of the understandable fear, stress and anxiety that people feel, not to mention, members of the community who are living with pre-existing mental health issues - and in some cases complex mental health issues,” says Ashley.
“I think there’ll be an oscillation between mental and physical health for some time, and I suggest that people make sure that’s on their radar both for themselves, their family and for people they’re connected to. Be proactive about your own mental health, seek support if you feel like that will help you. There are many ways to do that, through one of the investments the Government made in telehealth, and through a mix of online resources and helplines. And if there is someone in your life that you might already be worried about, make time to check in with them.”
Right now, we need to acknowledge that we’re at the beginning of something that has a long runway, we need to be calm and gentle on ourselves, and that it may take time. Whether you’re adapting your physical routine, your work routine, your work from home routine now that you’ve got kids to home-school, we need to give ourselves the space to make progress, it won’t all click into place on day one. “Just keep hope and perspective that this is significantly different to anything we’ve experienced before so it’s understandable that for you, for the individuals in your family, and your family as a unit there are many different stresses at play,” says Ashely.
Right now, we need to acknowledge that we’re at the beginning of something that has a long runway, we need to be calm and gentle on ourselves
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