ECCV held a forum on the mental health impacts of COVID-19 in May. Speakers highlighted the persisting issues related to people with disability from culturally diverse backgrounds, particularly their increased susceptibility and vulnerability during the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 70 people attended the online forum, held by ECCV’s Statewide Disability Network, which brought together disability advocates, mental health specialists and people with lived experience.

The session was chaired by Margherita Coppolino, Chair of the Statewide Disability Network and President of the National Ethnic Disability Alliance.

Speaker Nyrob Majak, member of the Diversity & Disability program, and Peer Facilitator for ECCV’s Raise Our Voices project shared her story with the group, saying that COVID-19 lockdowns frustrated and concerned her.

Nyrob lives in Melbourne and acquired her disability due to a serious car accident in 2008. She shared her journey of recovery and being diagnosed as an alcoholic two years after her accident.

With the help of her psychologist, she was able to change course, identifying her passion for education and beginning further studies at the start of 2020.

‘The study commitment helped me overcome depression and anxiety,’ she said.

However, as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to spread, she felt herself becoming more anxious.

‘I heard that the virus could be passed on through healthcare workers, so I was very worried about not being able to have my carers or possibly getting the virus from them.’

She shared that while the first lockdown was hard, she started to get angry by the fourth lockdown as outings like a walk around the block, going to the park, seeing her neighbours and having coffee at a cafe were taken away from her.

Emphasising the importance of seeking out mental health help and finding appropriate care, she said that her psychologist played an important role in keeping her going.

‘The first course I did led me to the diploma I’m doing now but if I hadn’t found the right support at the start, I wouldn’t be where I am now. Working with a psychologist over zoom has helped my mental health and wellbeing.

‘I would always say that if you feel you need help or there are changes in your mood or lifestyle, seek help from someone who can teach you how to best handle and manage it. With the right support for your mental health, you really don’t know where it might take you. And it isn’t just you who benefits. Your friends, family and workmates and the community all get something,’ she said.

You can watch Nyrob and others talk about managing their mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic while living with a disability here.