Coronavirus in Victoria: Kids Helpline calls for children, teens in crisis triple during COVID | The Courier

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Experts fear the COVID pandemic is impacting the mental health of many children and adolescents far more than parents realise. With COVID-19 hitting Victoria the hardest of any state, the national Kids Helpline has revealed that call-takers were forced to make almost three times as many emergency interventions – in most cases to call police to prevent immediate danger – for Victorian children and young people over the past six months compared to the same period a year ago. The escalation was largely related to an increase in suicide attempts and child abuse. “We feared an increase in child vulnerability as a result of the pandemic and ensuing lockdowns, however the current spike in emergency interventions on behalf of children and young people in Victoria is very disturbing,” said Kids Helpline manager Tony FitzGerald. A shortage in child and adolescent mental health services in regional areas also compounded the problem, he said. Three quarters of emergency interventions were for young Victorians aged 13 – 18 years of age. For those children and young people aged between five to 25 years of age who called the national helpline, 44 per cent of emergency interventions over the past six months in Victoria were in response to an immediate intent to enact suicide, and almost a third were related to child abuse. “It is very clear that the pandemic is taking a toll on the lives of children and young people,” Mr FitzGerald said. Recent feedback from counsellors prompted Kids Helpline management to look at the six monthly statistics. “They were telling us they were experiencing an increase in these types of calls, of young people in real crisis usually in relation to suicide or self harm or child abuse where we have to support and get help to them immediately,” Mr FitzGerald said. “What’s happening in Victoria has had a cumulative impact on the mental health of young people. Every time something comes up it particularly triggers those young people who have got long term existing mental health concerns – they are typically the ones who contact us in crisis.” Recognising the toll that COVID was taking not just in Victoria but across the country, Kids Helpline employed an extra 100 counsellors to help deal with the increased demand. Kids Helpline also offers email and web chat for children and adolescents who do not want to talk on the phone, but the wait for those services can run in to hours particularly in the evening, raising fears that some young people on the edge are unable to get help. And a significant number of calls go unanswered because of the demand. Mr FitzGerald said the increase in demand for mental health services and a shortage of psychologists in regional areas was also contributing to the problem. IN OTHER NEWS “We are seeing the pressure being put on bricks and mortar face to face mental health services has increased so we are getting a lot of young people contact us because they can’t get in to see their psychologist or they’ve got a three month wait. “What we find is a lot of mental health professionals provide them with the Kids Helpline number to call us, which demonstrated the value of Kids Helpline can pick up some of that slack and provide support while they are waiting.” Last year Kids Helpline answered around 180,000 calls, about 42,000 more than the year before. Kids Helpline can be contacted on 1800 551 800, 24 hours a day, seven days a week or at www.kidshelpline.com.au Our team of local journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the Ballarat community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:

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