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Lifeline calls at record high as Aussies struggle with horror 2020

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

A struggling Australian will phone Lifeline every 30 seconds today, after catastrophic bushfires and deadly coronavirus has left tens of thousands vulnerable and shaken.

A struggling Australian will phone Lifeline every 30 seconds today, after catastrophic bushfires and deadly coronavirus has left tens of thousands vulnerable and shaken.

Lifeline received almost 90,000 calls for help each month in March, April and May – a record number in the organisation's 57-year history, according to just-released data.

The sustained increase in calls, up 25 per cent from normal levels, is unprecedented.

Bumbalong residents getting ready to defend their home from a bushfire south of Canberra

Dr Adrienne Withall, a mental health expert from UNSW Medicine, said she was "not all surprised" by the data and predicted it could continue, with some Australians likely to experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the months ahead.

"It has been a really tough time for Australians, hit by one major event after another."

However, she said the Lifeline figures were also a "good news story", as it showed Australians were reaching out for help.

The summer's bushfires, which caused death and huge destruction, and the COVID-19 pandemic have traumatised many people, she said.

Dr Withall expected the looming economic recession would heap even more pressure on Australian families.

"The threat of the bushfires was very tangible. People could see the fire and smell the smoke. We were being bombarded with images of loss."

The bushfires had burned for so long, Dr Withall said, that people were left in a state of physical and emotional exhaustion.

A toxic cloud had blanketed many Australian cities for weeks at a time.

Family who lost home in bushfires on the NSW South Coast deal with another blowBushfire smoke killed hundreds last summer

That predicament was followed by the "invisible threat" of the COVID-19 pandemic.

People's resilience had been stretched because they were unable to see, smell or detect the potentially deadly coronavirus danger, she said.

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She predicted "the potential" for mental health symptoms to appear later in the year.

"Some people will experience PTSD," Dr Withall said.

"Their proximity to the danger will be the key factor in that."

Many Australians have been isolated and juggling work and childcare responsibilities from home.

Hundreds of thousands found themselves stood down or out of work, putting them under intense economic pressure.

An Australian National University survey found almost 20 per cent of people drank more under lockdown than they usually did.

Railings being cleaned at the Sydney Opera House forecourt during the coronavirus crisis.Municipality workers wearing face masks and protective suits disinfect Kugulu public garden amid the coronavirus outbreak, in Ankara, Turkey

A Monash University study reported 60 per cent of Victorian family violence victim support practitioners said the pandemic had increased the frequency of violence against women.

Many Australians had carried a baseline fear of what would happen if they got sick with coronavirus, Dr Withall said.

She urged anyone who was struggling to seek help, and visit their GP.

NRMA Insurance and RACV today announced they would provide $2 million in funding to Lifeline Australia, to help cope with the increased call activity.

Readers seeking support can contact Lifeline 13 11 14 or beyondblue 1300 22 4636


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Source: 9News

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