Lifeline was hit by a tsunami of desperate calls in March. Image by Dan Peled/AAP PHOTOS

Health

Help lines swamped by desperate callers

2020-04-24 11:54:40

Lifeline was hit by a tsunami of desperate calls in March, recording its highest monthly national total in the organisation’s 56-year history.

The coronavirus crisis has also put unprecedented pressure on the Kids Helpline, which had 26,500 calls – about one a minute – in the first three weeks of April.

That was up 51 per cent on the same period last year.

Demand on Lifeline’s help line peaked on Good Friday when some 3200 people reached out for support.

Lifeline volunteers and staff answered 90,000 calls for help in March – the highest month tally ever recorded.

That was up 25 per cent on a year ago, and saw operators deal with one call every 30 seconds.

Lifeline’s Brent McCracken said Good Friday was “the biggest day in our history” as people marked Easter under onerous but necessary isolation rules.

“We saw people really struggling with loneliness, and the isolation, exacerbating the circumstances they’re in,” he told reporters.

Asked who was reaching out for help, he simply said “everybody.”

“(People) losing their business, losing their job, finding themselves without other people around them, having a lack of social contact,” he said.

“Many are facing circumstances they could never have envisaged they would be in. Many are feeling their life is becoming worthless.” 

They included people with chronic mental health issues exacerbated by the coronavirus crisis, but also a new group, people who’d never reached out for support before.

Young adults contacting Kids Helpline are struggling with the impact the COVID-19 lockdown and pandemic is having on their lives, says yourtown chief executive officer Tracy Adams.

“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,” she said.

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

The Queensland government on Thursday promised $3.5 million to keep the Lifeline’s phone lines open, after it’s revenue plunged due to the forced closure of its op-shop network.

It’s also given Legacy $1 million to help support the families of lost servicemen and women.

Lifeline 13 11 14

beyondblue 1300 22 4636

Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800