One of the biggest challenges facing the community during the COVID-19 pandemic hasn't been the virus itself, rather the mental health battle many have faced during lockdown.
While Ballarat and the surrounding regions have faced lighter restrictions than that of metropolitan Victoria, the inability for people to see family and friends consistently over the past few months has been difficult to deal with.
This is especially true for new residents in the region, who may have come during the pandemic to escape the issues facing high-density living in Melbourne.
One such person is Diana Hesse, who moved to Ballarat in June when restrictions eased.
Originally from the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Ms Hesse moved to Melbourne to be closer to family, however found the tight restrictions facing Melbourne increasingly difficult to deal with.
"I was reluctant to stay in Melbourne... I have a background in health and had a feeling that the lockdown and restrictions would continue," she said.
"As well as that, it was very lonely there. Once there was no theatre or films or coffee shops, I was left feeling very cut off. I thought Ballarat had much more to offer... I already had some friends in Ballarat who were closer to my age and had similar interests to me."
Making the move to Ballarat to be closer to friends and enjoy life outside of isolation, things quickly changed during the second wave of the virus, and Ms Hesse faced increasingly more time on her own once again.
"When I moved here it was splendid, we were out of lockdown and could move around and had some freedom to see friends... now things are completely different," she said.
"I can't see my friends anymore. I don't mind being alone, but being alone and being lonely are two very different things. I've been using phone calls and face-time with friends, but it's just not the same as face-to-face contact.
"No one quite understands what it's like to be absolutely alone, day after day. I think I'm quite an optimistic person... but in this circumstance being lonely has been really difficult. It's very unpleasant being by yourself with no one to talk to, trying to fill the days."
In hopes of alleviating her feelings of loneliness, Ms Hesse took to social media to find someone like-minded to go for walks and interact with in a face-to-face setting.
"I just wanted to find someone to have conversation with, go for a walk with, someone who can help things feel a bit more normal during this situation. It didn't really matter who they are and how old they are."
Rebecca Rudd, a psychologist and clinic manager at Mind Life Clinic said the struggle facing Ms Hesse is a common one in regular life, however the ongoing pandemic is working to amplify the issue.
"For many, loneliness is a challenge at the best of times," she said.
"When face to face contact is restricted as it has been this year this challenge is amplified, and can exacerbate the struggles the person is already facing. For some, it can cause the stress bucket to overflow, therefore causing the onset or relapse of illness."
In terms of connecting with a new community when moving to a new area, Ms Rudd added the current lockdown situation is making things difficult to feel involved.
"Connecting with a new community in ordinary times can also be challenging," she continued.
"When someone relocates and isn't part of a school or workplace community they may need to seek out learning or interest groups to connect with like minded people. The current limitations on face to face and group gatherings compounds the challenges, leaving many more isolated than ever."
Moving forward, despite the current limitations, Ms Hesse is remaining confident she will find people to help break the cycle of loneliness she was experiencing.
Having already met up with a number of people after taking to social media, her positivity has remained steadfast.
"It's been very exciting organising this... it's been hard to create excitement when you're home by yourself," Ms Hesse said.
"It's been really good... I know I am not the only person going through this, so I want to be able to show others that there is always something you can do if you're feeling lonely."
If you or someone you know is in need of crisis support help is also available via the following organisations:
- Beyond Blue 1300 224 636 or beyondblue.org.au
- Suicide Callback Service: 1300 659 467
- Mensline: 1300 789 978 or mensline.org.au
- Survivors of Suicide: 0449 913 535
- Relationships Australia: 1800 050 321
- headspace Ballarat (for 12-25s and parent support): 5304 4777
- Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800
- Soldier On: 1300 620 380
- Ballarat Community Health: 5338 4500
- QLife: 1800 184 527 (Support for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people)
- Family violence: 1800 RESPECT
- Veterans support: Open Arms on 1800 011 046 or openarms.gov.au
- Ballarat Mental Health Services: 5320 4100 or after hours on 1300 247 647
- For Aboriginal crisis support: Yarning SafeNStrong, 1800 959 563 (noon to 10pm)