When the first coronavirus lockdown was introduced in March 2020, the community of Merkinch and South Kessock was completely unprepared for such an unprecedented and unexpected event.
Many were afraid and felt that their lives had been turned upside down.
As the Courier reported, the story of the pandemic’s impact on the community is outlined in a new report compiled by the Merkinch Partnership and the Center for Remote and Sustainable Communities at Inverness College.
He concludes that community members have experienced high levels of challenges, problems, inequalities and disadvantages.
The report states: âAll face-to-face support normally available to the local population ceased, mostly overnight, and people were thrown into a crisis that they were neither prepared nor equipped to deal with.
âAt a time when people were in desperate need of support and access to services, they found themselves in a situation where support and advice was only available by phone or online.
âIt was a real challenge for a community that depends on face-to-face contact in all areas of its life: housing assistance, engagement with health professionals, participation in local community projects, job search, demand stipends, participation in education and organizing community meetings and events.
âA lot of people in Merkinch and South Kessock don’t have access to digital devices or don’t have the skills to connect.
âA lot of people also have cell phone contracts with very low data levels and minutes, which limits their ability to make phone calls or log in on their phones. “
Other issues included paying rent and spending more money on food and fuel as they had to stay home longer, needed face to face contact for their mental health and also physical health problems.
The school children were keenly aware of their mental health and this was also confirmed by teachers’ concerns about the students, including cases of attempted suicides and anxieties about returning to school once the lockdown is over.
The report continues: âAdults were constantly talking about stress, anxiety and fear of the pandemic.
âIsolation, boredom and depression are special problems, with the terms ‘anxiety’ and ‘depression’ used broadly and as a self-diagnosis.
âThere are situations of diagnosed mental health problems that have worsened.
âThe impacts on physical health raised in the research concerned the inability to consult a general practitioner, people having the impression of having gained weight and having disrupted their sleeping habits.
âIn a few cases, recovering alcoholics or drug addicts felt they had backed down. “
Community projects operating in Merkinch have come together to provide life-saving services to those who lack the skills, resources or resilience to cope with the pandemic crisis.
The report states: âAlthough our efforts were not always as well coordinated as they could have been and the working in partnership could have been more effective and collaborative, we were able to provide much needed and very supportive support. appreciated, albeit remotely by phone. most of the time. “
A range of community organizations collaborated to provide support such as delivering food and prescription packages, helping people connect, making social phone calls, giving advice on foreclosure rules, cash payments. for gas and electricity, pastoral care, art kits for children, checking out neighbors and giving treats to locals.
The report continues: âThe activities provided by community organizations, the services set up by statutory agencies, the increase in universal credit and the fact that the three local convenience stores remained open throughout the confinement period allowed local populations to access a wide range of help, information and advice which has been a lifeline for them in a crisis situation. It helped them keep their heads above water and survive.
“What we need now is a plan for the future, how to help people recover from the past 16 months, how can we help people not only to get back on their feet, but to move forward in their life and thrive, not just survive?
“This is the next challenge for the community of Merkinch and South Kessock and the one starting with this research project.”
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