New research conducted by the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention (AISRAP), yourtown and the Centre for Mental Health, University of Melbourne has found a significant increase in the number of children and young people seeking support from Kids Helpline in 2020 when compared to 2019.
The study revealed an increase in calls to Kids Helpline at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic (March 2020) followed by a gradual decline and a second rise in July 2020 – when parts of Australia experienced a second wave of infections.
Monthly and weekly time trends of calls were examined with common reasons identified, including worries about the virus itself, mental health, suicide/self-harm, and relationships.
The study noted the benefits and particular value of helplines during a pandemic when face-to-face services and natural supports are difficult to access.
Upon the study's release, Associate Professor Kairi Kolves from AISRAP noted changes in demand for Kids Helpline aligned with changes in the pandemic severity.
“It is likely that this pattern reflects a combination of negative emotional and psychological effects of the pandemic on some children and young people, and difficulty accessing friends and face-to-face services due to movement restrictions and social distancing requirements. Whether emotional and psychological effects of the pandemic will be short-lived or whether they will contribute to the development or exacerbation of mental disorders is unknown,” said Associate Professor Kolves.
yourtown CEO Tracy Adams stated: “The study found, while less exposed to the trauma of mass illness and fatalities than their international counterparts, children and young people in Australia may also experience concern about themselves or vulnerable family members contracting the virus and pandemic restrictions affected almost every aspect of their daily lives.”
“The pandemic has likely had particular effects on children and young people with existing mental disorders or other special needs,” said Ms Adams.
Read more about the study via the AISRAP website
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