Beyond Blue has launched a dedicated phone line, staffed by mental health professionals briefed on the pandemic response. Photo posed by model. Picture: iStock
Beyond Blue has launched a dedicated phone line, staffed by mental health professionals briefed on the pandemic response. Photo posed by model. Picture: iStock

Hotline to help deal with virus stress

Mental health non-profit, Beyond Blue has launched an all-hours Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service to help people struggling with their mental health due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new service includes a digital site which offers wellbeing tips, self-help tools, access to peer to peer support, as well as a 24/7 phone counselling hotline manned by trained mental health professionals.

The professionals will be specifically briefed about the evolving public health response and are trained to link callers to relevant services like financial aid, family violence support and official government COVID-19 information sources.

They will also be able to make clinical referrals and escalate people to more intensive mental health care if needed.

 

Beyond Blue said the service would evolve to reflect the changing needs of the community. Photo: Vince Calati
Beyond Blue said the service would evolve to reflect the changing needs of the community. Photo: Vince Calati

Beyond Blue CEO Georgie Harman said there had been a direct spike in people reporting negative mental health due to COVID-19.

"At Beyond Blue, we've seen a 30 per cent spike in contacts over the past two weeks and on some days, as many as one in three calls to our existing Support Service is about COVID-19," Ms Harman said.

"People are telling us they're feeling overwhelmed, worried, lonely, concerned about their physical health and the health of friends and loved ones, and anxious about money, job security and the economy.

"Right now, people are looking for simple, practical information that's available, reliable and relevant to them."

However, she said there was "no one-size-fits-all answer".

"Some people will benefit from knowing that the strategies they're already using have good evidence behind them. Others will discover new tips and tactics," she continued.

"Many will benefit from making a phone call to a trained mental health professional who is equipped with the latest information about the pandemic response and referral options.

"At a time when the need for physical distance remains paramount, we're using all forms of technology to support every Australian."

Chair of Beyond Blue, and former Prime Minister, Julia Gillard also asked Australians to "actively look after their mental health" amid this global crisis.

"We anticipate growing demand for mental health support as this pandemic develops, both from people who are already managing mental health issues and those who have never struggled before," Ms Gillard said.

"We've built this service rapidly because we understand that all Australians need this support immediately and that now more than ever, prevention matters.

"Just as people are looking after their physical health, we're asking people to actively look after their mental health.

"We need to support people to cope and stay well, and we need to intervene early to halt any decline in the conditions of those already living with mental illness so that we reduce the longer-term impacts."

Medibank Health Solutions and Accenture partnered with Beyond Blue in the launch of this service.

The organisation's existing 24/7 phone line and online chat function will continue to operate as normal.

The Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Service is available 24/7 at coronavirus.beyondblue.org.au. The dedicated phone line, staffed by mental health professionals briefed on the pandemic response, is 1800 512 348.