“I am single, male, mid-20s who is living in a house on my own during lockdown,” says Darcy Price, a PE teacher.
“I am not allowed a visitor and haven’t seen a person face to face for almost three weeks, other than the energetic grocery store lady.”
This is reality not only for Darcy, but for the up to one in four people who are living alone through Victoria’s strict Stage 4 lockdown rules.
“Each day is a challenge, and for me it is a reward just to get through knowing I am safe,” he says.
Darcy is part of a growing chorus of voices advocating for change in Victoria for single person households.
A petition posted on change.org asks Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton to consider the introduction of a “buddy system” similar to that instigated by Prime Minister Jacinta Arden during Stage 3-4 lockdown in New Zealand.
By today, there were more than 22,000 signatures.
Prof Sutton said two days ago that a change was under “active consideration”, though possibly only when the state eases back into Stage 3.
This system would allow for people living in situations like Darcy’s to nominate one individual living in those same conditions to visit each other and no one else during lockdown.
“It doesn’t make sense that individuals who live alone but have a partner are entitled to different levels of emotional and mental support than people who live alone and can’t visit anyone,” Darcy says.
“The bubble idea is a highly proven measure which helps to prevent negative mental health, rather than being a reactive measure.”
Psychologist Fiona Batchelor agrees the introduction of a “buddy system” would help during this vulnerable time.
“For some people [when isolated alone] there is an increased risk, particularly if they have a history of anxiety and depression,” Fiona says.
Lifeline.org.au last month reported a 22 per cent spike in calls compared to the same time the previous year, after Melbourne and Mitchell Shire went into lockdown for the second time.
Clinical counsellor and sexologist Jenni Mears says connection is a necessity for people, and it’s lacking when people are living alone in times like this.
“It sits on the hierarchy of needs … the lack of touch, the lack of connection, leads our bodies to contract. We feel alone, we get depressed. I think we’re hardwired as humans to have that connection,” Jenni says.
Monash University researchers surveyed 1200 Australians on how they believed they were coping during the pandemic.
Initial results saw that the majority of participants recorded mild levels of anxiety and depression, while about 30 per cent of people exhibited moderate to high levels.
The survey showed those who lived alone were a part of the group most affected.
“We have a large part of society who have been left unrecognised and it needs to be addressed,” Darcy says.
“There is a silent killer among us, and that is mental health.”