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Maintaining our human connection

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Jack HeathI can’t remember a time when things have felt more uncertain and when it has been more important for us to maintain our human connection and be kind to one another. 

In a matter of months, we’ve hurtled from the droughts and bushfires brought on by climate change to now COVID-19 and its associated economic and social upheaval.

So many of the face-to-face interactions that form the fabric of our everyday lives are being put on hold or shut down. 

Many of us are now working from home.  Public events have been cancelled.  Some schools have closed down.  The nursing homes where many of us have aged parents and grandparents are moving to lockdown.  We’re probably more likely to be spending our day engaging with social media and its endless cycle of news about the devastation and disruption of COVID-19. 

We are moving to a life – not as we know it. 

There will be lots of tensions that arise over the coming weeks and months and we need to take good care of ourselves. 

While we already know the negative psychological impacts that occur when people are quarantined, we are in unchartered territory when it comes to more of us staying at home in a world so dominated by social media. 

In these times, it’s essential we remember our common humanity and be kind to our fellow humans.

As you know, SANE seeks to support those of us affected by complex mental health issues.  For this group, these times are particularly tough. 

For many of the hundreds of thousands of Australians who live with complex mental health issues, the world was already an unsure and unsafe place well before the impacts of climate change became obvious and well before there was something called COVID-19.

Imagine the situation some people face today.   You might be managing your mental health to get through life one day at a time.  You could be already dealing with the social distancing impacts of stigma and discrimination.

You might have also been affected by the bushfires.  You are still hypervigilant but now have the added stress of COVID-19 and when you look out your bedroom window you can still see the devastating physical reminders of the bushfires that ravaged your world just a few weeks ago.

You are told how important it is to keep and build social connections and then the next day, because of the COVID-19, you are being told to keep your distance, don’t touch people and be on constant alert. 

We also know of people dealing with NDIS services that were sporadic, with new service providers who sometimes didn’t turn up when they were meant to.  And this was all before COVID-19. Many of the new NDIS service providers are sole operators and should they contract the virus, or come into contact with someone who has, then they will need to self-isolate.  There are going to be a lot of people who won’t be getting critical services that are so important to their wellbeing and recovery.

In this context, talk of “social distancing” is a profoundly unhelpful term.  We need to move our language to “physical distancing with social connection”.

It’s why SANE’s digital supports, like our Help Centre and the SANE Forums, are so important and likely to become more so in the weeks and months ahead. 

At SANE, we’re working to keep our staff safe and healthy so that we can continue to operate these services.  At the same time, we’re grappling with the challenges of having more people work from home. 

I want to give a shout out and say how I’m so impressed and inspired by the commitment and flexibility across the entire SANE team as we work to ensure our services are maintained.

A huge thank you also to the many people who are offering support to one another on the SANE Forums.

And a final thank you to all our kind donors and supporters who generously continue to support our work.

I want to let you know that the SANE Board and Executive are working closely together with regular meetings as we seek to provide clear and consistent communications and plan for an uncertain future.

In short, we are taking good care of ourselves so that we can keep supporting the people whom our organisation exists to serve. 

Here are eight tips that might help you maintain a sense of wellbeing in these difficult times:

  1. Keep a regular routine – see if you can get up the same time each day and get dressed for the day, even if you aren’t going out
  2. Maintain some form of daily exercise
  3. Seriously limit your media consumption – if you can possibly manage it, scale back the scrolling
  4. Read that book you’ve been talking about reading
  5. Video, call, email or text to those you care about most
  6. Look out for those you know who are likely to be doing it tougher than you – your connecting with them in times like this will be doubly appreciated and you’ll feel better in yourself
  7. Reach out for SANE supports through our Help Centre and online Forums
  8. Practise gratitude – as difficult as things are, appreciate how we lucky we are not to be living in a country with a third rate health care system.  Appreciate the many selfless health care workers who, just like the firies a few weeks ago, are putting their lives on the line.

These are challenging times. If we are to maintain some sense of sanity, we must stay connected to our common humanity. 

Reach out to those you love. Be kind to everyone you encounter. And, together, let’s combat COVID-19 with KINDNESS-20.

Jack Heath

Last updated: 27 March 2020

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