Australia

Coronavirus worries have Australian children calling Kids Helpline every 69 seconds

The coronavirus has caused the Kids Helpline to record a spike in calls Source: AP

The coronavirus pandemic has seen the Kids Helpline come under "unprecedented demand", with the service getting 40 per cent more calls than this time last year.

Concern about the coronavirus is driving one Australian child to call the Kids Helpline every 69 seconds, new data shows.

Kids Helpline data gathered in March showed the service has experienced a 40 per cent spike in calls compared with the same time last year. 

“This is an extraordinary moment in time as we face unprecedented demand on our counselling service,” said yourtown chief executive Tracy Adams. 

Yourtown is the charity running the help line. 

Ms Adams said young Australians were contacting the service with a range of concerns.

“They are worrying about and struggling with the impact this is having on their daily lives – whether that is school or university closing, not being able to do team sport or go to the gym, travel and holiday, as well as not being able to see their friends or boyfriend [or] girlfriend,” she said. 

“Our findings suggest that these young people may also have larger concerns about what this means for their future, for Australia or for the planet.  

“We are also seeing some very vulnerable children and young people who are having to now deal with existing parental abuse and conflict during lockdown.”

Mental health services have experienced a rise in demand as Australians seek help during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Last month, the federal government announced a $74 million funding package for the mental health sector.

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.

Ms Adams said the spike showed the Kids Helpline was needed “more than ever”.

“2020 has proven to be a year of turmoil for many young people, from bushfires to COVID-19, some of our young people have told us how their family was already struggling due to the bushfires and now their parents are desperately trying to find work or access income," she said. 

“Issues such as anxiety, depression, self-harm, eating disorders and suicidal ideation, as they find the normal coping strategies are no longer available, additional support services are closed or the anxiety that the pandemic has produced in them has left them less resilient to deal with these conditions.” 

Ms Adams said children who want help can access the service using “whatever channel of communication that work for them, be that phone, email or WebChat”. 

People aged between five and 25 seeking support with mental health can contact Kids Helpline at kidshelpline.com.au or on 1800 55 1800.

People can also 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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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

Additional reporting by AAP, Evan Young

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