For many migrants—especially women and children—social isolation can be a daily experience that can greatly impact on their mental health and wellbeing. Spending time with others can help reduce the feeling of isolation and help bring about a sense of belonging.
Through grant funding from the Commission, the team at Communify Queensland established learning and sharing circles for women and mothers from diverse cultures to intervene early and help reduce the risk factors for depression and anxiety among those who are socially isolated.
Over five months, Communify hosted five learning and sharing circles, working with a total of 71 women and 60 children over 42 sessions. The circles focused on overcoming isolation related to language barriers and financial stress by helping the women connect with others, while making time for health, wellbeing and self-care.
Sessions covered healthy eating and fitness, how to maintain self-esteem and confidence, being a parent in a new culture, baby massage and introduced the women to PCYC activities and equipment, including childcare and gym.
Participants made new friends, prepared and shared meals together, learned about local family services, and received information on women’s and family health and mental health.
One young mother, who experienced isolation and depression, came to the program with no real plans for the future. With skills and confidence gained she enrolled in a Skilling Queenslanders for Work program and found new hope for future employment.
Other mothers created a shared arrangement for babysitting, allowing each other free time to pursue education or other goals, whereas before the program, these mothers had no family or neighbour assistance with childcare.
Everyday life can be a challenge for all of us some of the time, but add into the mix cultural and language challenges and isolation, life in a new country without your familiar support system of family and friends takes on added complexity. Supporting people to make these critical social connections can make all the difference to the mental health and wellbeing of the entire family.