Supporting friends and family during the COVID-19 pandemic

Daily life always delivers uncertainty, and there are many things we can’t control.  The current COVID-19 pandemic, however, has meant many of us are facing levels of insecurity that we have yet to experience.  As well as worrying about our physical health, and that of our friends and family, the pandemic has impacted all aspects of our lives including our mental health, finances, employment, and relationships. 

Below are some reminders of how we can support others, and ourselves, during this difficult time.

  • Focus on what you can control, and help others to do that too

Many of us use worry as coping mechanism, hoping that the more we think through something, the more likely it is we will solve it, but often ruminating can have the opposite effect.  Constant worry can cause stress and anxiety and contribute to ongoing health problems like high blood pressure, heart issues, obesity, and more severe anxiety and mental health issues.   

When we're feeling uncertain, we should aim to focus on what we can control and help others to do this too.   Focus on manageable and enjoyable tasks like putting aside time each day to check in with friends, or to read or go outside for a walk.     

  • Recognise when others might need your help

It’s important to be aware of changes in other people's behaviour or mood, as you could see signs that someone is struggling.  People could be impacted by the health impacts of the virus but may also be experiencing stress from having their normal life disrupted. Let them know you are there for them and check in often.  Encourage them to stay active, limit their media exposure, and stay connected. However, if you feel someone is relying too heavily on you, or needing more support than you can offer, then it it’s important you refer them to professional help as well.

  • Help them access further mental health support if needed:

Some places to start in seeking support include the Head to Health COVID-19 site, the NSW Health mental health support page, the NSW mental health support line, and the Beyond Blue COVID-19 mental health support line (1800 512 348) and information portal. You can also find information about coping with the stresses of the crisis at the Australian Psychological Society and the Black Dog Institute.

  • Help others stay informed

A useful way you can help others is to help them to understand the ever-changing public health and support information.

Below are each state’s information portals in relation to COVID-19.  They include advice on where to go for health and financial support, as well as information on any restrictions in place.

·         NSW: https://www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19

·         VIC: https://www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au/

·         WA: https://www.wa.gov.au/government/covid-19-coronavirus

·         TAS: https://www.coronavirus.tas.gov.au/

·         SA: https://www.covid-19.sa.gov.au/

·         QLD: https://www.qld.gov.au/health/conditions/health-alerts/coronavirus-covid-19

You can also stay up to date with official Federal Government information, advice and support, via the Department of Health’s Coronavirus Portal, the National Coronavirus Helpline (1800 020 080).  For other information in NSW visit Service NSW or call the NSW  Coronavirus helpline on 13 77 88.

  • (But) don’t overload yourself with information

It can be a fine balance between staying on top of information and overloading yourself with worry.  Try and limit the time you spend watching, listening to, or reading the news – especially news that’s related to the pandemic.  We often see a rise in conspiracy theories and fake news during times of crisis, so it’s also important to ensure that you and those you care about are getting information from reputable sources. reputable sources.

  • Other support options

Below are some specific support options to help friends and family:

Young people: This crisis has had impact for young people and has affected their schooling and developing friendships.  Beyond Blue and ReachOut have many tools that might be useful in helping young people. The Raising children Network also has a lot of information to help parents and carers to support their children through this

Older people: My Aged care has put together some support for older Australians, including advice people caring for elderly friends or family

Safety online: As we are spending more and more time online, it’s important for people of all age groups to follow e-safety guidelines to stay safe online and  avoid scams

Disability support: If you are supporting someone with a disability, People with Disabilities Australia have collated information on available support

Support in languages other than English: Health information in many languages can be found here and Beyond Blue have put together some mental health support here

Financial Support: You can help someone apply for NSW financial support here or Federal support here.

The current health crisis has impacted people across the globe.  At an individual level, the most important thing you can do for others is to stay in touch and let others know that they can reach out anytime.  As well as caring for friends and family, it’s also important that you don’t sacrifice your own needs, so make sure you also stay connected to your support networks, keep a manageable routine, and reach out for help when you need to.

If you need advice on how best to help someone you care about, call our Step Together helpline workers on 1800 875 204, 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.


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