In late April of this year, India emerged as the new epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic, with over two million new cases in the last week, and over 20 millions cases in total.
The crisis is having an ongoing and devastating effect on Indian society due to limited medical supplies and the fact that less than 3% of Indians are vaccinated.
The Indian-Australian community is also impacted as they try and do what they can for friends and family back home, despite feeling far away and at times powerless to help.
SAARI Collective talked to Anushka Phal, a Melbourne-based psychologist, who has a number of tips about how the wider community can support Indian-Australians to cope with the stress of India’s COVID-19 crisis.
1. Check in on a regular basis
For many Indian-Australians, the current situation is bringing new challenges and stress on a daily basis, including juggling the time difference when calling home, a seemingly endless stream of WhatsApp messages and the pressure of constant updates brought by the news cycle.
“It is impacting not just their personal life but their emotional state, and maybe their professional life because they’re so busy and caught up,” Anushka said.
Anushka acknowledges that it is important to be sensitive in engaging and interacting with Indian-Australians during this time, as the mental strain being faced by the community is probably bigger than you realise.
As someone personally affected by the health crisis in India, Anushka says she would appreciate her friends regularly checking in and asking questions such as “how are you going?” and “how are your relatives in India going?”
But, she advises to check in with people first to make sure they have the energy to talk with you, and to make sure they don’t feel obligated to talk with you out of a sense of social propriety.
2. Therapy through friends
While seeking mental health support is recommended for Indian-Australians who are struggling during this crisis, Anuskha acknowledges that therapy is expensive and that South Asians tend to reach out to their community for support first.
Friends, including non-Indians, are also a part of this “comfort zone,” even if non-Indians may not be able to fully relate to the current situation.
Anushka notes that all individuals more broadly can relate to the struggles of COVID-19, especially those who experienced harsh lockdowns in Melbourne last year.
Friends can act as an effective tool to provide an ear to listen to the worries of Indian-Australians, whether that be over the phone or in person.
3. Be mindful of what you post on social media
Social media has become a double-edged sword during the time of the pandemic. It is an effective tool to spread news and updates, but Anushka highlights that it has also become a place for conspiracy theories and people to complain because there’s “nothing else to do.”
While you may be tempted to post about the India COVID-19 crisis in solidarity with your Indian-Australian friends, it might not be a constructive outlet. It can add another layer of stress and worry for members of the Indian-Australian community who are already overwhelmed by information (and misinformation) about the crisis.
A more effective form of online engagement would be to donate to charities who are supporting Indians during this time, including charities which are purchasing medical equipment.
Asking Indian-Australians which charities to donate to could be a sensitive way of showing solidarity with the cause.
4. Everyone is different
The COVID-19 situation has impacted each Indian-Australian in a unique way depending on who they know in India and how they cope with stress.
While this article has provided a few tips to help in better engaging with friends, the most important thing is to realise that everyone deals with crisis in a different way.
The most important takeaway at the end of the day is to let Indian-Australian friends know that you are there for support and to ask what you can do to help.
Afeeya Akhand is a Masters student based in Sydney and a member of the SAARI Editorial Team. She can be reached at email@example.com
Anushka Phal is a Melbourne-based psychologist, with a strong passion for cultural-psychology. You can find her details and book in for an appointment via the SAARI South Asian Australian map under the Featured or Mental Health Support categories.