A social link is vital for the well being of the individual and the whole. It affects emotional and physical health aspects throughout our lives. The need to belong somewhere, to experience, but also to share with others on a daily basis, is one of the specifications for a healthy life and community.

It is also a basic human right. Social isolation due to the pandemic directly and indirectly affects mood, emotions and behaviours, as well as all aspects of life. Increased levels of stress, fear, anxiety, panic and sadness about what we hear or live create a new “epidemic” associated with the coronavirus. It is the epidemic of loneliness that often entails social isolation.

This is because our daily routine, communication and habits have changed, especially for the elderly and people living with incurable or chronic diseases, their caregivers and other vulnerable members of our community.

We know that people who are socially isolated suffer from more health problems (obesity, diabetes, stress, etc.). They can also partake in health-threatening habits such as smoking, drug or alcohol abuse or alcohol, which contribute to premature illnesses, injuries, violence and even death. Depression and other psychological disorders are exacerbated by isolation.

So what can we do during home confinement? How can we maintain a sense of social well being whilst keeping our distance from others? What are some ways to avoid endangering yourself and others?

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When fear, anxiety and stress affect your sleep, mood, diet, exercise, interests, relationships and upset your balance and communication with others, it would be helpful to think about what you can control and what you cannot. It is important for your mental health to keep in touch with your friends or relatives. This can help you in times of trouble.

It is important to maintain your social networks using available communication methods such as video chat or telephone communication with friends, neighbours, family and health professionals. It is also important that you stay informed about available support services. There are organisations in Victoria that can support those who experience such problems. The Australian government has implemented support measures for all those in need.

There are many organisations where you can contact to talk to health experts about coronavirus concerns and talk to trained staff on how to deal with stress, anxiety and fear. Such services are National Corona Virus helpline (1800 020 080), LIFELINE (13 1114), SuicideLine (1300 651 251), BEYONDBLUE (1800 242 636), Suicide Call Back Service (1300 659 467) and a free interpreters line (13 14 50).

Contact PRONIA on (03) 9388 9998 for more information.

Antonios Maglis is the Community Education Officer for Pronia