How Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can stay healthy and strong during the coronavirus: keep in touch and help others

This information was extracted with permission from an article originally published by Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia, the new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (Indigenous) social and emotional wellbeing, mental health and suicide prevention national leadership body. You can read the original and complete article here.

Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia acknowledges and pays respect to Elders, both past and present and all generations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples now and into the future as the Traditional Owners of this land.

We are all feeling worried and stressed about the coronavirus. Our lives are changing in many ways, and we have to prepare ourselves. Life won’t be the same until the virus is under control, but with the right information and a sensible approach, the road ahead can be easier and less stressful. To stay mentally strong, here are some tips:

Our culture keeps us strong

As peoples, we have faced many, many battles before and survived. Think about our ancestors’ strengths and where we have come from. Think about your strengths too, and those of the people around you. Focus on what makes you, your family and community strong for the journey ahead. Culture is stronger than the virus - even though our roles and responsibilities might be challenged by the need to stay indoors and physically apart from each other. We can still be culturally, spiritually and socially connected. Do what you can to keep culture strong, and let culture keep you strong. There might be opportunities too – the time to learn language, stories or dances or to learn from Elders in ways that don’t involve visiting them and putting their health at risk. Remember, our ancestors are always with us.

Keep in touch with friends and family

When you are outside, you need to keep two big steps away from other people to stop the virus spreading, and you shouldn’t visit other people. But you can still yarn on the phone, on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Messenger and so on. Keep in touch that way. And if you need to talk to an Elder or older person, call them – don’t visit! Share things with friends and family or connect as a group together online. Be creative, share recipes, try a cooking or exercise challenge with friends, share stories, have a laugh and keep connecting.

Keep the kids happy

Check in with your kids regularly but especially if they’re behaving differently. Kids get stressed too. Talk to them about what they’re hearing and how they are feeling about the virus. Let them ask questions, be honest with them but explain things in a child friendly way. Take a bit of extra time to let them know you’re there to keep them safe. If they’re worried about grandparents or family, putting them on the phone for a yarn can make everyone feel better. And of course, be clear about what kids should do, like washing their hands, to stay healthy. Kids will feel better if they also know what they can do to help, like cleaning up or helping with the younger kids. Don’t fill up too much of their time with activities, give them some space to explore and be creative as well. But do spend good time together, playing, singing, reading and give reassurance when necessary. Try and keep routines as much as possible and especially for mealtimes and sleep. Sometimes kids need time away from all the tensions in the house so use distraction, stories or games to keep them happy.

Keep Elders happy

It is our way to make sure Elders are doing okay. So, it’s important we protect them and make sure they don’t get the virus. It’s tough, but for most of us that means staying away, and keeping the kids away, until the virus is under control. It’s better to speak on the phone, by Facetime or Skype. And you can leave groceries or medicine for them at the front door too if they need it. They need to know they’re safe, you’re safe and that you’re there for them.

Be kind to others

Everyone will be stressed at a time like this. We’re all sharing the worry and dealing with the virus in our own way. And most of us are stuck indoors and seeing the same people day in and day out. People may react in unexpected ways when stressed. Try and understand how they are feeling and see if you can help. It’s important to put yourself in the place of others at this time, to keep as calm as we can, and be as kind as we can. But it’s also important to recognise and tell your family when you need time out and accept that others do also. If problems are serious, extra help may be required. Don’t let things get out of hand.

Image courtesy of Wayne Quilliam

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