In the shadows of North Melbourne’s social housing estates, a group of young African footballers are laughing while being put through their paces.
- VicHealth says 53 per cent of people reported having low to medium life satisfaction during Victoria’s second wave
- That was up from 20 per cent before the coronavirus pandemic
- Young people, those on low incomes and people with disabilities were worst affected
Four months earlier, many of the youths spent a fortnight confined to the towers amid an outbreak at the height of Victoria’s second wave of COVID-19.
The way the towers were locked down suddenly, with many not understanding what was happening, caused a great deal of uncertainty and mental anguish, community leader Ahmed Dini said.
“I think the healing process is long-term, to be honest with you. I don’t think we can just get over what took place,” he said.
The residents in the towers weren’t the only ones who struggled with the mental impacts from the pandemic’s second wave.
A new study from government agency VicHealth has quantified some of the toll felt by those across the state.
A survey of 2,000 respondents found there was a major increase in people who reported having low to medium life satisfaction.
During the second wave, this figure was at 53 per cent, up from 20 per cent before the pandemic.
Respondents aged between 25 and 34, people on low incomes, and people with disabilities were worst affected, according to the survey.
It also appears the novelty of group video calls and virtual catch-ups quickly wore off, with only 31 per cent of Victorians saying they “felt connected to others” during the second wave.
This was down from 37 per cent when the state’s first set of lockdown rules began.
VicHealth chief executive Sandro Demaio said the results showed there had been “a large strain on the mental health of Victorians”, many of whom encountered job losses, curfews and limits on movement during the pandemic,
In a silver lining, the VicHealth survey revealed some Victorians’ eating habits improved during the lockdown, with an increase in people cooking at home and vegetable consumption from pre-pandemic times.
More than 450 community groups around Victoria will receive a share of $3.9 million from VicHealth for projects that promote social connection, physical activity and healthy, affordable food.
Mr Dini’s group, United Through Football, will receive $50,000 for sporting tournaments and school holiday programs to engage young people from housing estates, including the nine inner-Melbourne towers that were locked down.
Another group to benefit from the funding program is Food for Change, a charity that grows herbs and vegetables at a Clayton South farm in Melbourne’s south-east.
Food harvested by the group’s volunteers is donated to food relief agencies across Melbourne.
The charity’s founder, Matt Donovan, said a $38,000 funding grant would go towards setting up a second farm at Mount Martha on the Mornington Peninsula, which will hopefully produce enough food to make up 200,000 meals a year.
Mr Donovan said demand for produce this year was at its highest since the group’s creation in 2017.
“We’ve had people physically rock up to the farm and ask for food,” he said.
“Everyone we speak to says ‘we need more food’, and unfortunately we can’t keep up with it at the moment,” he said.