Demand rises for mental health support

Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800) has received an additional 1519 contact attempts in the last fortnight.
Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800) has received an additional 1519 contact attempts in the last fortnight.

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 past 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 also increasing.

It comes after a busy start to the year for 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 2019 and late-March 2020 compared with the same period the previous year.

Yourtown virtual services manager Tony Fitzgerald, speaking on behalf of Kids Helpline, says it's a good thing 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"It's easy for us all to get withdrawn and worry about what's going on, but actually talking to someone else, whether it's a parent, or jumping online and having a chat to your friends ...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."

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."

Lifeline expects around 2500 calls a day during the summer period - which is usually its busiest time of year.

But this past summer they averaged 2750 a day as they experienced a sustained rise in calls for the first time ever.

They're now getting up to 3000 calls a day, representing about a 20 per cent increase on historical volumes.

Mr Brogden called for the community to support those living alone and those who could 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."

Beyond Blue chair Julia Gillard earlier this week said it was normal to feel worried in the current circumstances and encouraged people to seek support if they needed it.

"By coming together, by following official advice and by showing compassion towards those around us, we will get through this," Ms Gillard said in a statement.

Lifeline 13 11 14

beyondblue 1300 22 4636

Kids Helpine 1800 55 1800

Australian Associated Press