Among the many other things it is, the coronavirus is a perfect storm of anxiety creation. On top of fears about how far the crisis will go, there is isolation, threats to employment, loss of personal connections and physical contact.
“We are seeing an increasing number of calls, web chats and emails about COVID-19,” Beyond Blue chief executive Georgie Harman told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
“There’s been a four-fold increase in contacts directly related to the virus since early March … it’s a grave concern because it’s reflective of the significant and quite valid anxiety that the community is feeling right now.”
Lifeline has also seen a spike in calls.
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“Just in the last week, the number of callers who contacted Lifeline and wanted to talk about concerns surrounding COVID-19 has increased from 23% to 39%. We expect this to continue to rise as Australians lose opportunities to connect with each other due to the effects of COVID-19.” Lifeline Australia chairman John Brogden said at the end of March.
Lifeline estimates it is receiving around 3000 calls a day, or a call every 30 seconds.
And there may be impacts beyond the immediate. The pandemic is guaranteed to have a severe impact on the economy over a number of years. This is equally worrying.
Research in the British Journal of Psychiatry in 2014 showed that suicide rates around the world “rose significantly” in the years following the global financial crisis.
One of the country’s chief mental health experts, Patrick McGorry, described Australia’s mental health system as “not fit for purpose” in light of the crisis.