While the forthcoming festive season is joyful for many, it can also be a sad and lonely time for the one in five Australians experiencing mental illness, says SANE Australia.
“December is often built around end of year gatherings and celebrations. However for some people, especially those experiencing mental ill health, it can be a time of isolation,” SANE Australia’s Help Centre Psychologist Suzanne Leckie says.
With many mental health support services closing down, or being managed by limited resources over the holiday period, this year SANE is launching a virtual Christmas Dinner for those that may be spending Christmas alone.
Each week the SANE online Forums host Friday Feast – an initiative that sees Australians experiencing mental health difficulties coming together online and having a chat over a virtual dinner in a supportive, inclusive and encouraging environment.
“With Christmas falling on a Friday this year, Friday Feast will be even more significant,” Leckie says.
The SANE Forums are available and moderated 24 hours a day, including over the holiday period, and provide a non-judgemental place where Australians can connect with each other regardless of what they are experiencing or where in Australia they are living.
“Topics vary, ranging from managing symptoms and diagnosis, through to more lighter topics about every day life,” she says.
SANE Australia’s CEO Jack Heath said that the organisation has spent over 18 months developing the SANE online communities that now partner with 30 other mental health services across Australia to deliver the online platform to more than 50,000 people over the past year alone.
Heath highlighted the importance of digital technology and innovative thinking to provide solutions to the ever changing requirements of people affected by mental illness, including their carers, friends and families.