Salvos IDEAS Crowd

Online preventative mental health events for socially isolated regional Victorian men and families

by David Pearce | 6 months ago | in Archived Ideas
Open Ideas/S5-Jul20-Oct20

1. The social challenge presented by Covid-19

The impact of Covid-19 is sweeping through the community faster than many imagined or anticipated. The resulting government actions of self-isolation and quarantine mean the most socially and geographically isolated people will be at increased risk during a time of mass financial stress and interpersonal pressure. The ongoing situation is expected to sustain short and potentially long-term impacts on our mental health and wellbeing including expected increases in the rate of suicide, depression, anxiety, domestic violence and substance abuse (Brookes, S.K., et. al., 2020; World Health Organisation, 2014). Regional Victoria in particular has already been hit hard by recent drought and bushfire, and now the pubs and clubs as well as sporting clubs, a key point of regional social interaction, have shut down. This will compound isolation for this already very isolated and traumatised group. 

1.1 Covid-19 compounds pre-existing mental health issues 

The ABS describes the status of Australian male mental health: 

  • Suicide is the leading cause of death for men ages 15-44;
  • Men are 3-4 times more likely to commit suicide than women, be addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, demonstrate physically violent behaviour, and are less likely to seek professional help.
  • All of these statistics significantly worsen in regional areas. (ABS, 2016).

While there has been some investment in preventative mental health services within schools, little is available for men aged 18-80, notably in regional areas. (Mental Health Victoria, 2018).

1.2  Social problems require social solutions

If we do not immediately present Regional Australians with coping strategies and solutions to deal with fear and isolation, we can expect to further compound their already traumatised status. Adult males in particular are prone to adopt a “she’ll be right” attitude - one of the most significant and actionable drivers of male suicide (Tsirigiotis et. al., 2011). The experts also tell us that the benefits of addressing such conceptualisations of masculinity flow on to all of the community - not just to men (VicHealth, 2019).


2.The bottom line: Leave no one in need

We know that social support and social connectedness are our strongest predictors of resilience and recovery for individuals and communities who experience trauma and disaster (Forbes, D., 2020). The Salvation Army are faced with a tremendous opportunity to respond to this social crisis that is affecting all Victorians, and most affecting the most vulnerable. There exist a range of options however broadly speaking the bottom line is:

  1. Choose to respond rapidly through engaging and mobilising external resources already positioned to deal with these issues;


  1. Build the capacity in-house and respond once that has been developed.


3. Pre-Covid 19 solution: Facilitated male connection in Regional Victoria // On the Low Down

In 2019 “On the Low Down” ran a preventative public mental health event series across major community hubs in Regional Victoria and one low socioeconomic community in outer-Melbourne. We partnered with the local major health services and community groups in each region, educating and connecting socially isolated and vulnerable people with respective resources and services. Our fundamental objective was improved community wellbeing and health conditions in Regional Victoria. 

2019 On the Low Down partner organisations include: 

The Victorian Men’s Shed Association, Headspace, Wellways, Ballarat Community Health, Uniting Vic Tas, Barwon Health, The Glenelg City Council, Benalla Health, Heywood Rural Health, Portland District Health, Barwon Health, The City of Greater Geelong, Brimbank City Council, Warrnambool City Council, The Geelong Regional Library Corporation, The Tough Guys Book Club and The Man Walk.

How we facilitate positive social change:

  1. Strategically

Cornerstone to motivating these cultural shifts is promoting an understanding of the value of emotional expression. Second to this is connecting men to one another and to available resources (VicHealth 2019; Jesuit Social Services 2018). Our 2019 program created a safe and well-resourced space replete with counsellors and other specialist support staff, and then with the help of a panel of representatives from our partner organisations, we sensitively canvassed the subject matter using story and interactive group exercises. We provided an opportunity for men to begin to open up and connect with available resources, which in turn enabled the communities to strengthen important social ties.

  1. Tangibly

We run events that interrupt the status quo, strengthen social ties, provide experiential learning opportunities and resources, and reduce stigma. Project deliverables include the dissemination of hardcopy workbooks at events and online, podcasts, a social media presence, media interviews and contributions to our digital resources webpage detailing key mental health resources.

4. Responding to Covid-19 in 2020 // On the Low Down

Like us, the Salvation Army is working hard to provide essential services to those most in need. The fundamental challenge is to adapt to the necessary physical isolation and still continue to provide services. We have a solution. Our structure of hosting a panel of representatives from these groups lends itself very neatly to a digital and phone-based communication platform using Zoom and/or Facebook Live. Using these digital applications we are able to facilitate the continuing engagement between the most vulnerable in the community and the best advice from local health services. We have strong networks throughout Regional Victoria with health networks and community groups, as well as a tried and proven model that effectively gets us in front of large numbers of the most vulnerable people from regional communities. 

Events are 100% online and accessible via mobile, tablet or computer.

We can run our an online event and expert interview package daily. This translates to reaching thousands of Australians in need each week. 

Delivery options:

  1. Interactive video conference: people join, can activate mic and video if they want, questions via chat;

  2. Webinar - presenter facilitates a panel. Audience watches/listens in, asks and votes for popular questions via chat;

  1. Facebook live combined with interactive video conferencing and webinar; and,

  2. Podcast interviews streamed online on video and published later in audio


5. Let’s work together

“On the Low Down” is evolving with the challenges presented by Covid-19. We know that the Salvation Army are too. We are working on the same cause - we are just yet to meet one another. In this time of need, with a rapid and united approach together we can serve Australia better than ever. 

Please get in touch at your earliest convenience to organise a more detailed discussion. 


David Pearce, Program Director - OTLD

M 0409 863 840  | E

On the Low Down in the media:

What department are you from?

Outside of the Salvos / General public

Who is your target market?

Isolated regional Australian adult males and their families

David Pearce

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Marc Allison 4 months ago

Hi David. Looks like a good idea, that might benefit from some promotion :)

Have you shared the link with other organisations you have worked with in the past?


Marc Allison 4 months ago

PS my idea is about Benefit concerts that pay artists, encourage food purchases and raise funds for The Salvation Army. If you like the idea please vote/give feedback by clicking here:


Ann Sathasivam 4 months ago

If there was capacity for these sessions to link community members in with local Salvation Army Support Services, Doorways/Mission Expressions, then there is definite merit in pursuing a partnership with this external organisation. My only concern is whether we have sufficient resources to be able to meet the needs of this vulnerable cohort of the community...there needs to be a "linking person" to suggest and direct individuals to obtain the assistance they require in a timely manner.


Neri Morris 2 weeks ago

Status labels added: Archived, Open Ideas/S5-Jul20-Oct20