Australia

Coronavirus crisis spurs more Australians to reach out for mental health services

A teenager checks his mobile phone Source: AP

Kids Helpline says it's pleased people are reaching out during the COVID-19 pandemic as mental health organisations experience a rise in contacts.

Mental health services have experienced a rise in demand as Australians seek help during the coronavirus pandemic, with Lifeline preparing for a 25 per cent increase in contacts over the coming weeks and months.

Kids Helpline has recorded an additional 1519 phone, webchat and email contact attempts in the last fortnight compared with the previous two weeks, with 461 involving mention of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, a Beyond Blue online discussion forum on coping with coronavirus is getting "unprecedented interest" with more than 21,000 views as of Wednesday, while calls and emails about the virus are increasing.

It comes after a busy start to the year for Australian mental health services, with Lifeline recording a sustained 10 to 15 per cent increase in contacts over summer due to bushfires.

Kids Helpline received an additional 3855 contact attempts between December 1, 2019 and March 25, 2020 compared with the same period the previous year.

Yourtown virtual services manager Tony Fitzgerald, speaking on behalf of Kids Helpline, says it's good that people are reaching out.

"It's easy for us all to get withdrawn and worry about what's going on, but actually talking to someone else, whether it's a parent, or jumping online and having a chat to your friends ... talking about how you're feeling really does help," he told AAP on Thursday.

"The value of sharing that experience and the value of trying to put things into context and talking to other people is so important at the moment."

Person using a mobile phone
Mental health services say they've experienced a rise in calls during the coronavirus pandemic
PA Wire

Lifeline on Friday welcomed an extra $6 million in funding from the NSW government, saying it came at a crucial time.

"It is absolutely essential that we ensure our services have the resources they require to respond effectively to Australians who need us," Lifeline chairman John Brogden said in a statement.

"Just in the last week, the number of callers who contacted Lifeline and wanted to talk about concerns surrounding COVID-19 has increased from 23 per cent to 39 per cent.

"We expect this to continue to rise as Australians grapple with the effects of COVID-19."

Mr Brogden called for the community to support those living alone and those who may find physical distancing and self-isolation difficult.

"People should never underestimate the power they have to make a positive difference," he said.

"Please find creative ways to use technology to work around the barriers to connection and reach out to those you feel may be struggling."

Australians must stay at least 1.5 metres away from other people. Indoors, there must be a density of no more than one person per four square metres of floor space.

If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus

Readers seeking support with mental health can contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636. More information is available at Beyond Blue.org.au. Coronavirus specific mental health advice can be found here.

Embrace Multicultural Mental Health supports people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

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