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Lifeline feeling the strain of the pandemic


With no end in sight for the pandemic, many people across the Hunter are finding everyday life just that little bit harder.

Since COVID-19 started infecting people across the world, Lifeline has recorded a 25% increase in calls.

Lifeline Direct Regional General Manager, Julie Wicks, says currently, almost half of the calls the service receives are about stress due to the virus.

“We have been tracking COVID related calls and they have fluctuated to 45 percent then down to mid 30’s then it’s now 40 percent so it’s evident there’s a pattern with community concerns,” Ms Wicks said.

“There was the initial onset of fear of the unknown and how it relates to them and their loved ones, then businesses and the media offered information and there was support and understanding of what was going on, then the increase changed due to Victoria.”

There are several concerns facing callers, including loss of income, concern for the health of loved ones and isolation.

“With the elderly not being able to meet and see loved ones, that’s quite a long time not to see someone,” Ms Wicks said.

“With isolation comes loneliness, humans are not built to be alone, they’re built for connection and that comes back to the root of Lifeline, we provide connection and hope.

“I sit on phones every two weeks, so I have first-hand experience why people ring.

“I do a four hour shift and there are multiple calls most about coronavirus. I had a recent call where they lived alone and didn’t have anyone to speak to, they were out of work.

“They said ‘Every time I turn the tv on I’m being updated about coronavirus,’ and that was heightening anxiety.

“People’s everyday normal doesn’t exist anymore and that’s been highly interrupted by coronavirus and difficult for those who deal with anxiety and depression.”

The service is also struggling to keep up with demand – believe it or not, some calls go unanswered.

“We aren’t able to answer every call, for us it’s about training people to come onto phones,” she said.

“We have two teams in the process of training but it takes a few months and is quite a lengthy process.

“We are grateful for volunteers to put their hand up but we need to put them in training first and the more we can get through will help us meet demand of calls.”

While it’s well known that Lifeline has a telephone service, it also offers face to face counselling.

“It’s as simple as walking into the centre or calling and they can talk to the team here and be directed to an appointment in the next two weeks, with no doctor referral and no cost,” Ms Wicks said.

Lifeline is also increasing its video health service to make access to help easier amid the pandemic.

The message in these challenging times – reach out to those you care about.

“We really want to highlight the need to continue to reach out to people in isolation or who are alone,” Ms Wicks said.

“I can’t stress enough, people living by themselves, contact them and say hi, if you’re noticing people are not feeling their normal self, encourage them to talk.”

If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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