Life Wellbeing Fears for mental health of residents in coronavirus lockdown suburbs
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Fears for mental health of residents in coronavirus lockdown suburbs

Keilor Lodge resident Jodi Gordon and her family are back under stay-at-home orders. Photo: Nicole Asher
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The Gordon family’s world has shrunk in a matter of days.

“We’ve all had a little taste of freedom and now we’re going back under,” Jodi Gordon said.

Ms Gordon lives in Keilor Lodge, one of the 36 suburbs in 10 Melbourne postcodes which went back into lockdown on Wednesday night.

Her suburb borders Keilor Downs, which has seen a dramatic uptick in coronavirus cases in recent weeks.

For the more than 300,000 people living in the hotspot suburbs, the rules are familiar – they’re back to the stage-three restrictions the entire state lived under for most of May.

But for Ms Gordon, whose mental health suffered during the original restrictions, knowing what to expect just makes it harder.

I think a lot of people, totally me included, went down a bit of a dark rabbit hole there,” she said.

“I don’t want to go back there.”

The largest survey of Australians’ mental health during the stay-at-home restrictions found many people felt anxious and depressed.

As cafes and restaurants shut their doors, public spaces emptied and police increased their patrols, and calls to mental health support lines peaked.

On Wednesday, the Beyond Blue charity received the highest number of contacts to its coronavirus support line since the service started in April.

The organisation’s chief executive, Georgie Harman, said there were concerns having parts of the community in lockdown while others were free to roam would lead to a damaging social divide.

We cannot further stigmatise and marginalise these communities,” Ms Harman said.

“We have to show kindness and compassion and understanding that this could happen in our suburbs.”

The Victorian Government has announced an extra $1.95 million to help those impacted by the latest restrictions.

Helplines, including Beyond Blue and Lifeline, will get more funding and the coronavirus hotline will be expanded to reach out to isolated and vulnerable people.

More than 3,000 emergency-relief packages are available for people with no-one else to turn to if they are placed in self-isolation.

Other health services would get funding to triage support for people who are struggling, the Government said.

The state’s Chief Health Officer, Brett Sutton, acknowledged the reimposition of restrictions was hard.

“This is a really frustrating and hard sacrifice for people to make but it is the appropriate public-health measure to get on top of this,” he said.

Beyond Blue chief executive Georgie Harman, a woman with short dark hair, smiles at the camera.
Beyond Blue chief executive Georgie Harman says calls to coronavirus helplines have soared. Photo: Nicole Asher

Many of the suburbs deemed hotspots have a high immigrant populations, and there have been concerns authorities have not targeted those groups effectively.

Doorknockers have targeted the areas with information about the deadly virus and have encouraged people to get tested.

Ethnic Communities’ Council of Victoria chairman and former state Labor MP Eddie Micallef said a narrative of blame directed at ethnic communities was making people feel vilified.

“I think getting the accurate message through … that we’re all in this together … needs to be the line that can be pushed,” he said.

“I think where we take offence is when multicultural and ethnic groups are singled out for criticism.”

Ms Harman said there had been “a really unhelpful narrative” of finger-pointing “and even racism”.

“Right now, these affected communities need compassion and kindness,” she said.

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-ABC