COVID-19 pandemic hit Australia suddenly, without warning, in early 2020. It followed a devastating summer of deadly bushfires and floods that had tested our Australian society to its limits.
A pandemic that would see our economy shrinking, our communities in lockdown, and our health threatened. However, we were not all alone. The whole world was facing the same enemy from within.
Our community faced real and serious challenges during this pandemic that can be summarised in ten points:
- Closure of community centres, cultural organisations, and places of public worship. Our Islamic community, for example, had to live the Holy Month of Ramadan in a lockdown with no access to congregations nor family gatherings, or the usual seasonal celebrations and activities.
- Shut down of schools and childcare centres, where families were significantly affected. A lot of parents had to cope with the unprecedented pressures of looking after their children’s education besides losing their usual job, activities, and routine.
- Loss of livelihoods affecting everyone especially small business owners and casual employees. Some families lost all their forms of income struggling to make their daily lives.
- Working remotely and operating from home. This meant a major lifestyle change and subsequent issues in dealing with work and family at the same time. Especially in terms of work-life balance.
- A sudden need to rely on technology and study, teach, work, and even communicate remotely. Many people found using online platforms very challenging at the beginning and required a different set of etiquette and skills. We all found ourselves learning to use new terms, equipment, technology, and skills very quickly.
- Family problems and domestic violence showed an alarming increase due to families forced to be confined at home while stress and anxiety mounted.
- Older Australians were the most vulnerable group affected due to them being the at-risk group and coping with the most losses in lives as well as social connection and communication.
- Social distancing amongst other measures ensured that we are disconnected even when connecting as everything felt different even when we started to open.
- International students and people on temporary visas were significantly affected, where some even lacked a basic shelter to accommodate them or feed them.
- The unknown nature of the Pandemic and the medical jargon caused a lot of confusion, anxiety, and fear for many people.
All the above points were real challenges that we all faced during this pandemic. Each of them has a major effect on our mental health and wellbeing. As we helped each other physically, we now need to focus our attention and resources to understand their real impact and help those most vulnerable through this enduring crisis.
Mental health is the most important challenge that we faced and will continue to face for a while due to this Pandemic. Mental health awareness is an immediate step to rebuild the community’s resilience.