Around five weeks ago Monash Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre launched an online survey to better understand our mental health responses during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Preliminary analysis of our Australian survey data is showing a range of depression, anxiety and stress levels,” says Senior Research Fellow and Clinical Neuropsychologist Dr Caroline Gurvich.
It’s important to acknowledge our mental state, and there are plenty of things we can do to stay engaged with the world as we navigate the ongoing constrained social life ahead. Please remember that your doctor or organisations such as Beyond Blue (1300 22 4636) are available for assistance.
“Maintaining a sense of connection and belonging is particularly important,” says Gurvich. Start each day with a text or email to a friend, family member or colleague, and invite people for online face-to-face chats, phone calls or casual meetings.
In the virtual workplace, Gurvich recommends “maintaining regular video conferencing to ensure work colleagues remain socially engaged”; and ensuring regular updates and company developments are communicated to all staff.
Apps such as Words With Friends (online Scrabble) will make you laugh at how they reveal the smarts and foibles of people in your social circle.
Gurvich says it’s good to be informed about COVID if you’re accessing reliable sources, such as the ABC and science and research-based media outlets. Government updates and balanced debate can help your sense of control over and confidence in your own behaviours and actions, but limit your COVID media intake.
Although we’re restricted in where we can physically go, we still have agency to participate in shaping the future. If you’re passionate about reducing emissions that contribute to climate change, this could be a good time to put in place energy and emissions-saving practices at home; for example, did you know that reducing your food waste minimises the methane released when your garbage rots in landfill? And it honours the energy used to grow, process, transport and store your produce.
If you’d like to help professionals provide better mental health support to Australians in times of crisis, take part in the Monash Alfred Psychiatry survey — “We are very keen to learn about the resilience factors that promote good health and the risk factors that contribute to poorer mental health during this outbreak,” says Gurvich.