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Right now, Lifeline Australia is receiving a call every 30 seconds. Here's what they're hearing.

Last month, Lifeline recorded the busiest day in its 57-year history.

The Australia-wide crisis support service received more calls on Good Friday than ever before, and March will go down as their busiest month.

Rachel Bowes, Head of Crisis Services and Quality of Lifeline Australia, told Mamamia they are currently receiving a call every 30 seconds, with roughly 40 per cent of callers wanting to discuss coronavirus.

ReachOut, an online service for young people living with mental health issues, has identified the same trend. Upon releasing coronavirus-specific support in mid-March, visitation to their website increased by 50 per cent.

How to talk to someone with anxiety. Post continues below.

Beyond Blue has reported an increase of nearly 60 per cent in calls, with more people than ever engaging with their online forums.

So, when Australians call support services, what are their primary concerns? What fears and anxieties are the most prevalent? And what do we do if someone we know isn’t coping?

“I have no one to talk to”

Lifeline told Mamamia there has been an increase in the number of people concerned about loneliness as a result of COVID-19 restrictions.

Bowes said: “With 1 in 4 Australians being lonely or believing they have no one to talk to, loneliness is another big concern for many Australians. A sense of belonging is perhaps our greatest need, so when people feel they don’t belong or can’t connect with others, it is difficult for them to feel hopeful about the future.”

Loneliness was a significant problem for many Australians before coronavirus, but state-sanctioned social distancing has intensified feelings of isolation.

The subject of loneliness is prevalent on Beyond Blue’s online forums, with many saying they feel they have “no one to turn to”.

Lifeline Chairman John Brogden told ABC that for many Australians experiencing loneliness, “Lifeline is often the only person that some people speak to every day.”

“I’ve lost my job…”

Lifeline has seen a spike in Australians calling to discuss concerns around their finances.

Roughly one million Australians have lost their jobs as a result of coronavirus, a reality that we know has an enormous impact on an individual’s mental health.

According to Neil Bailey, a Research Fellow at Monash University, unemployment is associated with an increase in suicide, which Australia saw during the global financial crisis.

By analysing the latest figures, Bailey estimated that coronavirus-related unemployment would result in 2,761 additional deaths by suicide.

Dr Ewen McPhee, the President of the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine, said that there has been significant “anxiety around people’s jobs and economic circumstances…” and highlighted that for those living in rural Australia, coronavirus follows drought, fire and flood.

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“People are feeling heightened levels of stress and pressure,” he said.

“During the GFC, which was only just over 10 years ago, there was a significant rise in suicides, with job loss, home repossession and debt being key risk factors leading to suicide during economic downturns.”

“Alcohol usage and an increase in domestic violence can also be outcomes of both the economic downturn and the social isolation strategies. It is vital people take advantage of the supports that are available to them,” Dr McPhee said.

The same concerns are echoed in online forums, with many worried they aren’t eligible for JobKeeper and unsure of how they will provide for their families.

Issues with interpersonal relationships

Most calls to Lifeline, according to Bowes, are regarding interpersonal relationships.

With tensions high across the country, fractures are emerging within marriages, families and friendships.

Antonio Guterres, the United Nations secretary-general, has already identified a “horrifying global surge” of domestic violence amid the coronavirus outbreak, with many women and girls trapped at home.

Online forums indicate that the high stress environment has seen people they are close to becoming angry, erratic or withdrawn, presenting new difficulties in relationships.

An analysis of the Beyond Blue online forum found that common concerns related to coronavirus included:

  • Parents who did not know when to send their children back to school
  • Stress associated with caring for children full time while working a full-time job
  • A loss of routine
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Guilt associated with being reliant on government support
  • Grief
  • A sense of being trapped, with no end in sight
  • A lack of motivation, for example not wanting to get out of bed, and finding simple tasks impossible
  • A lack of hope for the future
  • Health anxiety, both for oneself and loved ones

“What should I do if someone in my life is struggling with their mental health?”

According to Lifeline, the most important thing is not to be afraid of asking the questions.

Asking someone if they’re okay is always an important first step. Lifeline’s advice is to “be prepared to listen… you don’t need to give advice, just listen without judgement.”

Offer to take that person to their GP or to make an appointment, and if they are highly distressed and you don’t know what to do, then call Lifeline. You can share the call with the person struggling, or seek guidance about how to best help.

If you are worried the person is thinking about harming themselves, then as difficult as it might be, it’s important to ask if they are considering suicide. If the answer is ‘yes’, then it’s critical to seek help. This might be through Lifeline or a GP, or it might mean calling 000.

Reaching out to someone who might not be coping can make an enormous difference.

If you think you may be experiencing depression or another mental health problem, please contact your general practitioner or in Australia, contact Lifeline 13 11 14 for support or beyondblue 1300 22 4636.

If you, or a young person you know, is struggling with symptoms of mental illness please contact your local headspace centre here or chat to them online, here. If you are over the age of 25 and suffering from symptoms of mental illness please contact your local GP for a Mental Health Assessment Plan or call Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14.

Kid’s Helpline on 1800 551 800

If you or someone you care about is living with family violence please call safe steps 24/7 Family Violence Response Line on 1800 015 188 or visit www.safesteps.org.au for further information.

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