Country SA focus on strategies to maintain good mental health and wellbeing

Reeve Welsh proudly displays some of his plush friends in the window of his house in Port Lincoln as part of the Bear Hunt. Photo: supplied
Reeve Welsh proudly displays some of his plush friends in the window of his house in Port Lincoln as part of the Bear Hunt. Photo: supplied

As business and social networks grind to a halt, there is still a feeling of hope in country towns.

Communities hit by the coronavirus have cleverly turned despair into support for families and loved ones isolated at home in an effort to maintain normality with a focus on mental health and well-being.

The widely recognised Bear Hunt is a great example of relief and excitement being brought to youngsters.

Households in the state's Lower Eyre Peninsula united to give children a sprinkling of fun as they put their plush friends in their front windows for passers-by to spot.

Carley Pittaway began the Cummins Bear Hunt Facebook page and said she learned about the Bear Hunts through a Facebook group in Adelaide which had shown houses in Adelaide taking part.

So far, more than 120 members have joined the local group.

"I thought it would be a good idea for Cummins because we are a tight-knit community and people like to get on board with things like this," she said.

"It is a good way to stay connected with other families without getting too close."

While tourist destination Barossa Valley has been dealt a blow with confirmed COVID-19 cases, staff at Barossa libraries have donned their thinking caps to present their weekly little visitor sessions online.

Rattle and Rhyme is a regular children's outing involving storytime and movement sessions for small "groovers".

The change led to parents praising the staff, with one Barossa parent, Annemarie Hardy, referring to the service as "amazing".

"This made our day and at least being online we can play it every day ... thank you and everyone else who is going above and beyond at the moment and always," she said.

In Victor Harbor and surrounds, the "love thy neighbour" proverb was brought to the surface with a Neighbour Day held on Sunday March 29.

The initiative looked at the importance of belonging and a sense of community.

City of Victor Harbor Mayor Moira Jenkins said research showed that a "connected" community was a resilient one.

"When we are advised to isolate ourselves, we should be thinking of how we can continue to connect with our neighbours and our community in more creative ways," she said.

"This can be as simple as phoning a friend, using video-conferencing technology to check in with a family member, or spending quality time with the people you live with."

Resident Kelly Neville who created Kangaroo Island Questions, Notices and Discussions Facebook page has compiled a list of island businesses still open.

Only two months ago, she was compiling similar lists amid the fires that have dramatically affected business.

Meanwhile, cafes, restaurants, small bars and local clubs are temporarily selling takeaway liquor in response to the state government offering special licences.

State government provide dire support service

The government responded to those feeling overwhelmed by the situation with a new support line service.

The initiative will involve trained Lifeline counsellors who will receive calls and provide a call-back support service for people in distress due to COVID-19.

The plan falls under the federal government's $1.1 billion health package aimed at assisting people in these challenging times, which includes social isolation.

The support line is part of the first roll-out of the SA Virtual Support Network.

It means the health support line will link people with dedicated counsellors through video or phone.

SA chief psychiatrist Dr John Brayley said the support line's focus will be early intervention.

"We know that if mental health concerns are identified in a timely manner, the severity and duration of the illness can be reduced," Dr Brayley said.

"We will be offering video and phone support for people with COVID-19 who remain in isolation, people in quarantine, or anyone who is staying at home."

The support line will also coordinate people in the community who have had mental health first aid and suicide prevention training to support others, and will commission a range of non-government agencies to provide support.

Premier's Advocate for Suicide Prevention, MLC John Dawkins said members of existing Suicide Prevention Networks in SA will be given the opportunity to participate in Virtual Support Network.

"Suicide Prevention Networks cover around 40 communities across much of South Australia and are made up of volunteers from all walks of life," Mr Dawkins said.

The networks will have the ability to play an integral part in supporting South Australians through the Virtual Support Network.

The support line will be staffed from 8am to 8pm and can be reached at 1800 632 753.

More information can be found at www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/COVID2019.

This story Clever communities rally to bring hope to their people first appeared on Barossa & Light Herald.