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Mental Health and Family Law during COVID-19

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the Australian Government has introduced isolation and social distancing measures as matters of social policy, in an attempt to minimise the spread of the virus and flatten the curve of infection. However, with interaction and natural social behaviour seemingly on hold, without doubt the mental health of many Australians, both adults and children, will be significantly affected.

Situational factors as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic

While families undertake self isolation practices, many Australians have been left without a job or under significant financial strain due to reduced income and home schooling. Whilst experiencing financial hardship, very often domestic violence (family violence) will occur coupled with an increase in mental health issues and possible alcohol and illicit substance dependence.

Australians can access various mental health services, such as the following:

  • Kids Helpline: a free, private and confidential telephone counselling service – 1800 55 1800 or https://kidshelpline.com.au/
  • Beyond Blue: a free online counselling service focused on assisting those with depression and anxiety: 9810 6100
  • Life line: a national charity providing all Australians experiencing a personal crisis with access to 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention services – 9261 4444
  • Parent line: a state-wide counselling and support service for all Victorian parents – 13 22 89 or 1300 272 736
  • Safe Steps: a domestic violence hotline service for women and children – 1800 015 188
  • WIRE Helpline: free support, referral, and information for all Victorian women (non-binary and gender diverse inclusive) – 1300 134 130
  • Alfred CATT Team: provides outreach assessment and treatment, in home, for those in mental health crisis – 1300 363 746

Furthermore, it is now more important than ever that members of our community report suspected or observed incidences of family violence and abuse (to Victoria Police or Child Protection Services, DHHS (Department of Health and Human Services) to ensure the protection of our most vulnerable. It is often situations of financial distress and social isolation that lead to instances of family violence, both of which are currently prevalent. It is imperative that victims of family violence and abuse are supported in the knowledge that Intervention Orders are still valid and enforceable in the local state Magistrates Courts, and Victoria Police will attend the homes of individuals in need of assistance.

The following online service is available and can assist regarding Intervention Orders:

Maintaining healthy practices

It is vital to maintain a holistic approach to mental and physical health during these challenging times. While it is advised to stay home wherever possible, it is also feasible to maintain an appropriate exercising regime, which could comprise daily walks or runs that can be broken up into morning, afternoon, and evening routines. It is recommended that Australians engage in up to one hour a day of moderate to vigorous exercise to maintain physical health. Home exercise is also strongly encouraged. Meditation and yoga are also good ways to stay mentally fit from home, and children can be engaged in these mindful practices. Coinciding with this approach to physical health is a nutritious diet that includes all key food groups. While the supermarket shelves may be relatively scarce, a balanced approach to nutrition is a key determinant of health both physical and mental. Music can also be utilised to create a healthy, happy, and relaxed environment.

Critically, it is important to be hopeful and optimistic during these otherwise trying times. The current situation is by no means permanent, and Nicholes Family Lawyers encourages all to reach out to close ones if they are in need. We encourage the use of Zoom / Skype, Facetime, and other online mechanisms through which one can interact with loved ones, while observing social isolation measures and flattening the curve of infection.

By Nicholes Family Lawyers

 

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