Supporting others and their mental health and wellbeing
Supporting family, friends and others in your community can mean so much. It can make a world of difference for someone you know or care about. You can provide support to someone by noticing behaviour changes, creating opening lines of communication, or even providing practical help.
Supporting someone with poor mental health or a mental health condition can be humbling and rewarding but it can also be physically and mentally challenging. If you’re supporting someone else, don’t forget to look after your mental health and wellbeing too.
The type of support needed will depend on the person your helping:
It can be difficult for children to understand the changes and uncertainty they are experiencing due to COVID-19. This can make them more vulnerable to feelings of stress, anxiety and sadness. As a parent or carer, there are ways you can support children through these challenging times.
Talk clearly and calmly with them about what is happening, using age-appropriate language.
Listen to any questions they have and let them know they are safe and that it’s normal to feel concerned.
Respond in supportive, gentle and reassuring ways, by listening to concerns and giving extra love and attention.
Help create some structure in their daily routine (even if this is different from their usual). This could include learning, playing and relaxing. Where possible, maintain schoolwork, study, and routine activities.
Limit how much time they spend accessing distressing news, social media or images.
Use video technology to help them maintain social connection with their friends and family members.
Lead by example. Work on managing your own stress through healthy lifestyle choices, such as eating healthily, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and avoiding drugs and alcohol. Adults who are prepared, rested and relaxed respond better to unexpected events and can make decisions in the best interests of those they care for.
Children’s reactions and emotions are influenced by how they see adults around them behaving and reacting. When parents and caregivers deal with traumatic events calmly and confidently, children are better supported.
For information and support on how to talk to children during the COVID-19 pandemic:
My Hero is You, Storybook for Children on COVID-19 With the help of Ario, you can help explain to children how they can protect themselves, their families and their friends from COVID-19. The story also looks at how to manage difficult emotions. This picture book has been translated into 23 different languages.
Birdie and the virus - storybook series developed by Children’s Health Queensland through the Queensland Centre for Perinatal and Infant Mental Health.
Supporting teens and young adults
Our young people have faced unique challenges throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in relation to their education, friendships and jobs. Feeling overwhelmed and stressed are very common responses to the ongoing change and uncertainty they are experiencing.
As a parent or carer, there are ways you can support your teen or young adult through these challenging times.
Talk to them about how they are coping and provide an empathic space for them to share their feelings and worries. Provide reassurance and encouragement where you can and speak openly and honestly.
Initiate conversations to discuss COVID-19. With so much misinformation online, this is a good opportunity to address any questions or concerns they may have. Remember, you don’t need to have all the answers. If you are unsure about something, use this time to search reputable sites for more information together.
Be mindful of how much time they are spending watching the news. While it is important to remain up to date on the details of the COVID-19 pandemic, too much exposure to negative news can affect their mood and cause further stress.
If your teen or young adult lives at home, and is spending more time indoors than usual, be mindful of their need for privacy and alone time. Developmentally they are likely wanting some separation from parents and family, so finding the right balance is important.
Encourage and promote a balanced routine, factoring in healthy eating, exercise and plenty of sleep. Be mindful that some household rules for teens may need a little flexibility, such as screen time. Social media, apps and digital platforms are a great way to connect with friends and family.
If your young person is having a hard time adjusting, the following techniques can really help:
Practicing mindfulness or meditation. There are many guided exercises available online, or apps you can download to your mobile device.
Listening to or playing music.
Journaling or video blogging.
Exercising. This could be something you do together.
Talking with a trusted adult. This doesn’t have to be you – it could be a relative, an older sibling even a teacher.
Connecting with friends and family.
Reading online resources or contacting a helpline or webchat.
Look out for signs that things might not be OK. While it’s very normal to experience a range of emotions during this time, particularly for teens and young adults, there are some signs that shouldn’t go unnoticed. If your young person is displaying intense feelings such as sadness, worry or grief that are ongoing and interfering with everyday life, you may need to consider seeking additional support.
If your teen or young adult needs further support, a range of options are available, however a chat to their GP might be a good place to start.
For more information and resources on how to support your teen or young adult, you might find the following organisations and web materials helpful:
Headspace are dedicated to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of young people. They’re also here in Canberra if you’d like to speak to someone about what you’re going through in person.
ACT Education Directorate has resources for students and families via their online portal to support parents and children learning from home.
Supporting older people
In times like these, it’s important to stay in contact with older relatives, friends, neighbours and others in our community. Help create a community of care, by looking out for seniors not only in your life, but also those who live around you.
Here are some practical things you can do:
If you are a family member or caregiver, talk about COVID-19 and provide updates on what is happening in the news. Being open and honest will help provide clarity and reassurance during a confusing and difficult time.
Physical distancing and isolation can be distressing for some people, particularly if they live alone. Acknowledge their feelings and talk about what is worrying them. By talking things through, you may be able to come up with some solutions to help.
Keep in regular contact. A phone call might be the most suitable form of communication, but you can also try video chat so that you’re able to see each other.
Offering practical support can make a real difference and help alleviate stress and anxiety. Check they have enough supplies and offer to pick up any shopping on their behalf. Knowing they have access to their medications and a nourishing meal to eat can help ease worries and concerns.
For information and resources on how to support older people during the COVID-19 pandemic, take a look at the following resources:
Neighbour Day: Connection and Calling Cards – Introduce yourself or connect with neighbours in your community using Connection & Calling Cards (a friendly message, your name and address) as an icebreaker. By dropping one of these cards in a neighbour’s letterbox, older residents are able to reach out if they require support. It’s a great way to give back and ensure that our most vulnerable are looked after during this time.