8 May 2020

Canberra Wellness Exchange provides new self care options during restrictions

Mental health and wellbeing

The COVID-19 crisis has called for a flexible response to mental health and wellbeing. Photo: File.

From early on in the COVID-19 crisis, the mental health impact was identified as a key issue for attention.

Governments have responded with additional support for organisations on the front line of providing services including a new major announcement this week, with $4.5 million invested into mental health services in Canberra.

This included $2.55 million in additional funds to community mental health organisations including Lifeline Canberra, Menslink, the Way Back Support Service and OzHelp to support their existing services to meet the increased demand.

This is a vital injection. There are many reports of a spike in demand as people struggle with anxiety, depression and other issues that have been triggered by the public health crisis and changes to routines and daily living patterns.

And while there has been a spike in demand for these services, we also know that there are others who don’t feel like they need traditional supports like counselling or access to psychological services but may need some additional support.

It’s been an unsettling time. Many of our natural support systems are harder to access, and strategies such as catching up with friends not currently possible, it’s a great time to explore new ways to look after our mental health and emotional wellbeing.

These factors have prompted a group of locals to look at what our community can do to help each other to maintain good mental health, leading to the establishment of the Canberra Wellness Exchange. It’s a free hub for Canberrans to access virtual sessions and classes gifted by local practitioners who provide complementary therapies to mainstream mental health services.

There’s a wide range of virtual options – everything from yoga, meditation, pilates and mindfulness. New options include opportunities for people to participate in laughter yoga, movement classes, nature-based breathing sessions and qigong practices.

The Exchange is running as a pilot through May to see if these activities are of interest and use to the local community. It’s an opportunity for people to test out a range of different practices focused on helping with nurturing good mental health and emotional wellbeing.

The Canberra Wellness Exchange is not intended to replace the usual mental health services. Rather, it’s about complementing the more mainstream responses to common mental health concerns and providing people with a range of different options – particularly for people who aren’t sure what’s the best approach for them.

The mutual aid movement that took off in Canberra at the beginning of this crisis is a natural extension of people offering the community their range of talents. As with the general mutual aid work, this is a grassroots initiative, about gifting things to our local community and is powered by dedicated volunteers who are passionate about community and want to make a contribution.

While there is already a range of interesting and diverse sessions being offered, organisers are also inviting others who wish to be involved to let them if they have skills to gift as part of a future program if this pilot turns out to be a success.

The Canberra Wellness Exchange schedule can be accessed via their website. There is also a Facebook page where you can hear from some of the organisers behind this initiative.

What great initiatives have you seen in your local community?

If you are in distress and need emergency assistance, please contact support services such as Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue 1300 224 636

Rebecca is an ACT Greens Candidate for the seat of Kurrajong in the upcoming ACT Territory Election

Original Article published by Rebecca Vassarotti on The RiotACT.

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