Two years of virtual wellbeing activities: How Fortem has helped first responder families in lockdown

With more than half of Australia’s population in extended lockdowns at various times during 2020-21, we reflect on the significant impact that Fortem’s virtual wellbeing activities have made on the wellbeing of first responder families during these difficult times.

Since the pandemic hit Australia, Fortem has facilitated 212 virtual wellbeing activities.

With more than 3,300 participants attending these activities, it’s clear that the online offerings were a greatly needed source of connection and support for mental fitness.

Virtual activities offered to first responder families included creative arts and crafts, cooking classes, active sessions including yoga and body weight classes, trivia, learn-a-language classes, kids’ activities such as dancing and gratitude jars, and regular catch-up sessions.

“Our virtual activities have been a great way to stay connected, learn a new skill, remain active and reach people who might be feeling isolated,” says Suzanne Williamson, Fortem Community Engagement Coordinator.

This has brought with it some challenges.

“We’ve had to be very flexible and creative about how we deliver our activities in an ever-changing external environment,” Suzanne explains. “With short notice, we’ve moved activities online and worked with suppliers who have had to learn new ways of delivering a virtual activity.”​

On multiple occasions, in-person activities were swiftly adapted to be conducted virtually, from the comfort of home:

  • School holiday craft sessions powered ahead with craft packs delivered to families
  • Dinner and arcade games was transformed into meal vouchers sent to participants
  • Board games and DVDs were provided for a family night in
  • A kids’ story time wasn’t cancelled, it was simply done at home with picture books and craft activities delivered to the little ones
  • A weekly running group turned to online check-ins and catch-ups to keep participants motivated and moving

Virtual wellbeing activities have been accessible for all, providing a way for first responder families to stay connected and meet others from home. They also helped to connect families together, as they shared the experiences of trying new things and being mindful. All of these virtual activities supported the mental health and wellbeing of first responder families during challenging times.

First responders act quickly in hazardous and rapidly changing environments, to keep us safe. During a time when the wellbeing of first responders and their families has been under even greater stress, it was our turn to react.  Thank you to everyone who helped us to support the mental health and wellbeing of first responder families during these challenging times.

Check out Fortem’s calendar of Wellbeing Activities, both virtual and in-person