New support is on its way for people who are feeling lonely and disconnected because of COVID-19 isolation with an injection of $83,000 to the south-west.
The Australian Loneliness Report 2018 found one-in-four Australians felt lonely, and local health services say this has has been further exacerbated by the pandemic.
To combat this "mental health crisis" Western Victoria PHN has allocated $91,000 to Grampians Community Health and Ballarat Community Health to provide an immediate and localised response to the social and economic impacts of social isolation.
The initial focus of the funding will be on establishing partnerships between primary health care providers and community groups, identifying community needs and then building on activities that address the social and economic impacts of social isolation currently emerging.
WVPHN chief executive officer Rowena Clift said the projects would work to counteract the sense of loneliness triggered by the prolonged social distancing laws caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Although loneliness can affect all members of society, those living alone may be particularly at risk," she said.
"With 15 in every 100 Wimmera Grampians residents living in single person households, (ABS 2016), we understand how the COVID-19 social distancing laws could impact these people, with interruptions to activities that bring communities together such as football and netball.
"Community activities and services in partnership with primary health care providers to reconnect people with each other is what these grants are designed to encourage. There hasn't been a more important time to support the community to socially connect with others and improve overall health and well-being."
With 15 in every 100 Wimmera Grampians residents living in single person households we understand how the COVID-19 social distancing laws could impact these people,Western Victoria PHN chief executive officer Rowena Clift
GCH and BCH will be part of a group that will meet monthly to establish a model and social connection charter for Western Victoria built on best available evidence and community input, working with Wellways and South West Health.
Grampians Community Health General Manager of Business Support and Innovation Kate Astbury said: "Grampians Community Health is pleased to partner with Ballarat Community Health to provide the Social Connection program to the communities of the Wimmera Grampians region.
"Our organisation will support community groups and organisations to develop Social Connection Charters in our end of the region. Grampians Community Health will employ a part time worker with a lived experience in mental illness to help socially isolated people connect with community groups with shared interests for activities and socialisation.
"The restrictions put in place due to the pandemic has been a positive experience for some but for others it has resulted in isolation, loneliness and anxiety.
"This program aims to address those issues by promoting and supporting people to re-engage with local community groups. Grampians Community Health has a long history of partnering with Ballarat Community Health to support our respective communities and this program is no exception.
"It also provides an opportunity to work with other agencies and community groups to help them fully understand the impact of social isolation on many people living in our community while helping those people reconnect and improve their mental health."