DEMAND for support might be unprecedentedly high but reach out is the vital message from 3BA Winter Appeal director John Fitzgibbon, who says no-one should feel alone in such uncertain times.
The Radio Ballarat general manager said the city's main frontline welfare agencies had been under pressure in what was a traditionally a tough time for people, let alone the added effects from the COVID-19 pandemic.
But Mr Fitzgibbon encouraged anyone feeling isolated to reach out because there was strong community support.
"Reach out and ask for help through our welfare agencies or other services in the community like Headspace or Ballarat Community Health," Mr Fitzgibbon said.
"We've got to make sure we're looking after each other."
We've got to make sure we're looking after each other.John Fitzgibbon, 3BA Winter Appeal director and Radio Ballarat general manager
Suicide Prevention Australia and Wesley Mission have made a call on the federal government to provide increase support to Australians experiencing distress in the community, following the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a joint white paper, released on Monday, their report identified three increased suicide risk factors from the pandemic: economic and financial stress; social isolation and increased family violence risk; and, a rise in substance abuse with the increased social isolation.
The report found while evidence was still emerging as to COVID-19's impact on communities, past pandemic response measures could amplify risk factors for suicide. This included increased distress among frontline healthcare workers during and after pandemics from potential exposure and high-pressure work.
Balarat agencies are already seeing a factor the report had identified - people who might be struggling with their mental health for the first time.
Uniting Ballarat executive officer Annette Kelly-Egerton has told The Courier agencies were seeing so many people who had previously supported the 3BA Winter Appeal now needing to ask for help from donations.
The agency also found those most affected from the pandemic in Ballarat were migrant communities and international students.
St Vincent de Paul's Alan West has told The Courier mental health and loneliness, particularly among the elderly, were key challenges for welfare agencies in Ballarat this winter.
Among the white paper's recommendations was the need for whole of government, whole of community approach to tackle secondary impacts of the crisis being felt across Australia.
Suicide Prevention Australia and Wesley Mission both acknowledged measures the government had introduced during the crisis had helped limit community distress.
Mr Fitzgibbon said the 3BA Winter Appeal had long drawn on a whole community approach and even more so this year.
City of Ballarat's food collection drive to support the community through the pandemic has fed into the Winter Appeal in a bid to boost supplies to frontline charities.
The appeal supports St Vincent de Paul's, Uniting Ballarat, Anglicare and the Salvation Army in their direct work with the Ballarat community.
Already the appeal has delivered 16 grocery pallets and was working with supermarkets for agencies' supplies, with support from MaxiFoods and Ryan's IGA.
All food donations are now only accepted at the Salvation Army centre in Main Road with City of Ballarat's emergency food relief drop-off centre at Morshead Park now closed.
City of Ballarat mayor Ben Taylor thanked the community for its generosity so far and said it was now important to channel all efforts into the 3BA Winter Appeal.
The food relief collected almost 6500 items from 317 public donations.
Cash donations to the 3BA Winter Appeal can be made online at 3ba.com.au.
- If you or someone you know is in need of crisis support, phone Lifeline 13 11 14.
- Help is also available, but not limited, via the following organisations. The key message is you are not alone: Beyond Blue 1300 224 636 or beyondblue.org.au; Suicide Callback Service: 1300 659 467; headspace Ballarat (for 12-25s and parent support): 5304 4777; Ballarat Community Health: 5338 4500.
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