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Australian Mental Health Hotline ‘Smashes’ Previous Record As COVID-19 Lockdowns Take a Toll

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Mental health and suicide prevention hotline Lifeline Australia has “smashed” its previous record for the highest volume of calls ever on Aug. 20. The data comes as mental health concerns continue to emerge as Australians react to prolonged lockdowns.

Lifeline Australia revealed that it received 3,505 calls in a 24-hour period, surpassing the previous record of 3,436 calls on Aug. 16.

John Brogden, chair of the organisation, said August had been one of the busiest periods in its history. In 2019, Lifeline Australia was averaging under 2,500 calls per day. However, average demand has increased 20 percent since then, with peak periods seeing a 40 percent increase.

“The good news is that people who need support are reaching out, and they’re getting it,” he said in a statement.

“It’s been a difficult few years for everyone in the community, but this also means that Australians know help is there when they need it,” Brogden said.

“We’ve seen demand grow 20 percent since 2019, and it continues to ramp up. Six of Lifeline’s 10 busiest days on record have occurred just this month.”

Staffed by volunteers, the 58-year-old organisation offers a 24-hour telephone crisis support service to help Australian’s cope with issues such as mental health, emotional issues, and potential suicide.

Most of Australia is currently under lockdown, with Greater Sydney, Melbourne, Katherine in the Northern Territory, and the Australian Capital Territory all under extended or snap restrictions.

On Aug. 19, the state of Victoria entered its 200th day in lockdown. At the same time, Greater Sydney has been undergoing an extended lockdown that originally began with a five-week lockdown due to an outbreak of the Delta variant of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus.

This was extended for four weeks on July 28 until the end of August, and then on Aug. 20, was extended again until Sept. 30. The NSW government has struggled to control a spike in infections after the country after significant issues with its vaccine rollout.

Police have also ramped up enforcement of public health orders, with the government granting extra powers, including the power to shut non-compliant businesses and to issue $5,000 fines.

Tony Bartone, the former president of the Australian Medical Association president said lockdowns were taking a mental toll on the population.

“The frustration and the fatigue is showing,” he told the Today show on Aug. 18. “It is a really precarious time, and the next week or so will dictate that.”

Daniel Y. Teng

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