Kingston Council has announced a ground-breaking new partnership with mental health organisation Connected AU, in a bid to combat increasing levels of loneliness and vulnerability in the wake of COVID-19.
Launching on Thursday, March 11th, the joint partnership will be the first of its kind in Australia, providing crucial resources, localised data and ongoing support for residents and health services on issues surrounding mental health, social isolation and disability services.
Over the next twelve months, Connected AU will gather crucial health statistics on behalf of the council via two innovative programs, designed to reduce loneliness and isolation amongst residents by improving social connections and facilitating greater opportunities for social interactions.
In its first program, The Letterbox Project will offer locals the opportunity to take part in a national pen pal initiative, where residents can either nominate themselves as a letter-writer or a letter-receiver for another registered participant living in their community. The program looks at fostering a sense of between residents, especially for those living with additional mobility needs, compromised immune systems or those without access to technology.
Commencing in 2020, this free service has already reached more than 3.5 million recipients with over 500 schools, organisations and individuals signing on as letter writers.
Connected AU founder, Mea Campbell believes the increased amount of social activities shifting onto digital platforms to comply with COVID-19 distancing measures, has forced many vulnerable community members to fall through the cracks.
“I knew that isolation and loneliness are ongoing, ever-present health and community issues, and with COVID-19 it was only going to get worse,” she said. “Finding different ways to connect became critical to our new way of life overnight,”
For Kingston residents who are able to get online, Connected AU has implemented four Virtual Hobby Groups, providing safe and inclusive platforms for locals to join discussions on topics such as gardening, health & wellness, book clubs and social clubs.
Kingston Council Mayor Steve Staikos said the partnership with Connected AU would help the Council better understand the needs of local residents and facilitate more meaningful connections.
“We are incredibly excited to be a part of this important community-focused project and the first Council to sign up to it in Australia,” said Cr Staikos.
Recent data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicates that 28% of women and 16% of men are experiencing loneliness as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Similarly, Mental Health services such as Lifeline and Beyond Blue have reported dramatic increases in calls
from people experiencing anxiety and depression in the last twelve months.
“Now more than ever, our community are in need of feeling connected and supported and the Letterbox project is a simple but innovative way of doing just that,” Cr Staikos said.
For more information about Connected AU and it’s affiliated programs visit https://connectedau.com.au