More Australians are reaching out to mental health services as they start to “catastrophise” the coronavirus pandemic. Here are some helpful tips to stop overthinking and keep calm. Picture: iStock
More Australians are reaching out to mental health services as they start to “catastrophise” the coronavirus pandemic. Here are some helpful tips to stop overthinking and keep calm. Picture: iStock

Catastrophic thinking: Aussies call every 30 seconds for help

More Australians are reaching out to mental health services for help as they start to catastrophise the coronavirus outbreak.

Beyond Blue's 24-hour, seven-day-a-week Support Service has had a 30 per cent increase in calls and emails in the past week, with one in three being directly impacted by the pandemic.

Lifeline has experienced an increase in calls too - a result of the virus - with one coming in every 30 seconds.

It is now bracing for an additional 25 per cent increase in contacts in the coming weeks and months after a sustained increase of 10 to 15 per cent due to bushfires.

A psychologist is also warning against catastrophising the coronavirus pandemic, saying Australians “could get sick later” with increased amounts of stress lowering the body’s immune system. Picture: iStock
A psychologist is also warning against catastrophising the coronavirus pandemic, saying Australians “could get sick later” with increased amounts of stress lowering the body’s immune system. Picture: iStock

Lifeline Australia chairman John Brogden said the number of callers who contacted Lifeline and wanted to talk about concerns surrounding COVID-19 has increased from 23 per cent to 39 per cent in the past week.

"We expect this to continue to rise as Australians lose opportunities to connect with each other due to the effects of COVID-19," he said.

To cope with the demand, Lifeline is expanding its Crisis Support capacity by offering temporary employment opportunities after it received funding from the Federal Government's $1.1 billion health and domestic violence package.

Beyond Blue is also expanding its service to run a dedicated coronavirus mental health hotline after receiving $10 million in extra funding.

Headspace will also expand its Work and Study program for young Australians after a $6.75 million boost.

Headspace executive director clinical practice Vikki Ryall told News Corp eheadspace - the organisation's online portal - had experienced a significant increase in young people needing help.

"Queries to eheadspace related to stress and anxiety have progressively increased," she said.

"The COVID-19 resource on the headspace website has been the most viewed piece of content since March 12, signifying young people and family and friends are seeking support and guidance during this uncertain time."

An Australian psychologist is also warning against catastrophising the coronavirus pandemic, saying Australians "could get sick later" with increased amounts of stress lowering the body's immune system.

Dr Marny Lishman told News Corp Australians needed to become more self-aware of how they think about, and perceive, the coronavirus, as over-thinking and chronic stress causes a lot of health conditions.

She said it could cause "anything from psychological conditions to anxiety and depression".

"When it feels that your thoughts are wandering off in the wrong direction, bring it back to the moment and purposely do something that engages you," she said.

"That could be listening to music, writing a book or watching Netflix."

Ms Ryall said acknowledging one's feelings and focusing on the present were other helpful ways to combat feeling stressed, overwhelmed, worried, frustrated, angry and excited.

More ways included concentrating on what is in your control, being aware of unhelpful thoughts, practise grounding exercises, reaching out to friends and family, and following protection and prevention advice from government health authorities.

"Do things that help you feel to grounded - things that you enjoy," she said.

"This could be video calling a friend, having a warm shower or bath, listening to music, baking, challenging yourself to an indoor fitness challenge, being crafty, trying a meditation app or learning a language online.

"You might consider taking a break from all news - social media included - and setting limits on how often you spend online."

Originally published as Catastrophic thinking: Aussies call every 30 seconds for help


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