S69: Emerging Stronger: Mental Health Solutions in the Wake of Covid

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By October 4, 2023 No Comments

Authors: Claire Fisher, Enaam Oudih, Memoona Rafique, Julie Millard,

Year: 2023

Event: 2023 The MHS conference - Adelaide

Subject: Emerging Stronger: Mental Health Solutions in the Wake of Covid

Type of resource: Conference Presentations and Papers

Presentation 1: Exploring social interventions for multicultural communities recovering from COVID-19.
Author: Claire Fisher
COVID-19 had a significant effect on the mental health of multicultural communities. Relationships Australia partnered with Merri-bek City Council and Lendlease VIC to conduct qualitative research, including surveys and focus groups, with multicultural communities across Melbourne. Our findings show that high rates of frontline workers, reduced access to education and employment, geographic separation from family and mental health taboos all led to elevated experiences with grief, trauma and distress. Although the communities recognised the need for restrictions, poor planning and inaccessible resources limited their access to their human rights, including to education, to work in just and favourable conditions and to mental well-being. The pandemic highlighted broader systemic failures culminating in disproportionate impacts for these communities.
Promisingly, the research heard about social connection opportunities which fostered safe, welcoming, inclusive spaces for people to remember and recover from the effects of the pandemic. These included multicultural women’s groups, religious social groups at temple, walking groups and more. Activities which build social cohesion, connect people to culture and identity, encourage sharing and create a sense of belonging were all integral for people’s mental health and the realisation of their human rights, especially following the pandemic. For communities who face mental health stigma, social interventions provide a more accessible alternative. This presentation explores how services can use community-based interventions to provide more compassionate, holistic, rights-based and accessible opportunities for multicultural communities to recover from the pandemic.
Learning Objective
This presentation will explore the findings from a qualitative study on multicultural experiences in Melbourne during, and recovering from the pandemic. It will focus on the uniquely safe, welcoming and inclusive role community-based social interventions can play in promoting rights and restoring mental health and wellbeing in these communities.
Fisher, C. (2023). Remembering and recovering from COVID-19 - Multicultural experiences in Melbourne during the pandemic. Relationships Australia. Canberra.

Presentation 2: COVID 19 and the culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities-A case study for future actions.
Authors: Enaam Oudih & Memoona Rafique
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (1) published in Feb 2020, the number of COVID related deaths was three times higher for those classified as most disadvantaged than those classified as least disadvantaged (SEIFA index) (2), while those born overseas had almost a three times higher death rate than those born in Australia. These statistics are sadly, both shocking and predictable, and while using a “business as usual” approach, inequitable outcomes cannot be unexpected. Basic evidenced-based primary health equity drivers have not been systematically implemented. The COVID 19 response lead to the further marginalisation and deeper inequity of health care when migrant communities were named, shamed and subject, in some Australian jurisdictions, to disproportional and punitive lock down measures. This presentation provides an example of an innovative and proactive response to supporting CALD communities through the COVID 19 pandemic, through health education and triage based supports. Funded by the Office of the Chief Psychiatrist in South Australia, the COVID 19 Virtual Mental Health Support Network, and specifically the CALD component of that response, Ask PEACE at Relationships Australia SA, provides a successful example of an agile response to the issues, the challenges and the solutions.
Learning Objective
Audience will learn about:
(1) The key successful components of the ASK Peace service response.
(2) The systemic key requirements that are needed to sustain the wellbeing of the culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities during a global public health threat.
(1) https://www.abs.gov.au/articles/covid-19-mortality-australia
(2) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SEIFA (Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas)

Presentation 3: “Their visit was like someone was lighting a match in the dark”: stories from householders.
Author: Julie Millard
The right of individuals to the highest attainable standard of health conducive to living a life in dignity is vital. The Assisting Communities through Direct Connection (ACDC) Project, a unique mental health and wellbeing proactive outreach program, revealed high levels of social isolation and loneliness in 22 selected communities in Australia. The COVID-19 pandemic and resultant changes in communities have highlighted an increase in people working from home, a disconnection from family and friends and dislocation from social and support groups. The project’s door knocking approach enabled meaningful discussions at the front door on mental health and wellbeing, individual and community needs and social determinants of health. The evaluation report found evidence that loneliness and other social determinants were significantly correlated to lower wellbeing and higher psychological distress, with the doorknocking approach being suitable for reaching and engaging people living in lower socioeconomic situations, regional and rural communities, and isolation. People Connectors spoke to householders who were not connected to services yet identified need, with assistance provided to obtain support. The outreach approach based on safe social connection was seen to be effective for reaching people who may be isolated or have difficulty with help seeking behaviours.
Learning Objective
Stories from householders and People Connectors on the proactive outreach door knocking approach show how discussions on mental health and wellbeing support help seeking behaviours, with the need for mental health and other support services to be flexible and adaptive in their connections and service provision with individuals.
1. Kaleveld, L. & Hooper, Y. (2023). Door-to-door for mental health: A summary report. Research and evaluation findings for the Assisting Communities through Direct Connection Project, Round Two. Centre for Social Impact, The University of Western Australia. https://doi.org/10.25916/q5k6-v906
2. Community Mental Health Australia, Assisting Communities through Direct Connection (ACDC) Project Capacity Building Project, 20 November 2022 https://acdc.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/ACDC-Project-Capacity-Building-Project-Report-20-Nov-2022.pdf

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