LIFELINE has recorded a "sustained increase" in calls to its crisis line in the Hunter, with COVID-19 the latest challenge to cause additional anxiety in the community.
The Hunter service has experienced a 10-to-15 percent increase in calls since summer, and now, about 23 per cent of calls are about, or mention, coronavirus.
"Our communities have faced some extraordinary challenges - drought, flood, bushfires and now COVID-19," Lifeline's executive director, Robert Sams, said.
"In a recent survey of our crisis support team locally, about 23 per cent of calls answered, in some way or another, mentioned COVID-19, and this percentage is rising by the day. In conversation with one of our crisis supporters recently, they mentioned that all calls that they took on their shift related in one way or another to the virus. "
Mr Sams said Lifeline was now receiving up to 3000 calls a day nationally.
"That's a call from an Australian in crisis every 30 seconds," Mr Sams said. "Our team in Newcastle and the Central Coast contribute to this service by answering up to 3500 calls per month."
Due to the introduction of tighter physical distancing measures to stop the spread of COVID-10, Lifeline was no longer able to provide its local face-to-face counselling services in local offices.
"Instead, we are supporting our current clients by providing counselling over the phone," Mr Sams said. "We know that many local people rely on these services, so we encourage any person who is experiencing heightened anxiety, emotional distress, or needs a confidential talk with someone who will listen without judgement, to contact Lifeline."
Mr Sams said Lifeline had decided to temporarily suspend its suicide training workshops and close its retail shops to ensure the health and safety of staff and customers.
"In making this decision we will feel the same pain as many other local businesses who have had to take the same action," he said.
"We will reopen our shops when we feel it is safe to do so. We are currently working with our staff to make sure that they do not find themselves in financial hardship."
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