What we've learnt about the community from our Support Service
No matter where in Australian you are, whether you’re feeling lonely and isolated or anxious about being back out among the community, the counsellors at the Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service (CMWSS) are there to help.
We chatted to four CMWSS counsellors, Kelly, Michelle, Jessica and Megan, about their experience during the pandemic to gain an insight into how the community is feeling about COVID-19.
What are the main concerns for people calling the service?
Quite a few people I’ve spoken to have said they’re too afraid to go out still. They’re anxious about people jumping in too quick and they’re feeling uncomfortable about being as sociable as others.
We’ve also had several people calling in about COVID-19 conspiracy theories. As people go back out into the wider community, people are sharing their views about the origin of the virus, however, for some people this is adding an extra layer of anxiety.
People that are really isolated due to the pandemic just want to hear a voice. They’re not necessarily looking for solutions – they’re just needing human connection. When people are feeling really isolated, naturally, the calls are longer.
People who have never experienced depression or anxiety before are starting to experience it for the first time. Some are experiencing OCD-type behaviours for example, especially regarding children and germs. I've had parents who don't let their children go outside, who are going to the supermarket and disinfecting everything, even goods with packaging on.
On the whole, who has been calling the service?
I’ve had a number of women call in who are worried about their husbands going back to the workplace. Most of them have young children, so there’s concern about them not only contracting coronavirus but bringing it home and the kids getting sick.
A lot of my callers have been older, around 70, and they’ve mostly been worried about family members coming to see them and potentially passing on the virus, particularly family members who’ve been overseas.
What kind of sentiment have you been getting from the people using the service?
I think some people may feel a little uncertain about whether they need to call in. They may have never used a counselling service before and so feel a bit hesitant at first. But usually, as soon as you start engaging with warmth and kindness, they realise it’s completely understandable to be struggling right now and completely natural to seek help.
I’ve had people say that they almost feel undeserving of support. They'll say: “Oh, you know, I'm sure you've got other people waiting and I know I haven't got it as bad as a lot of other people.” When this happens, I try to be really clear with them – I have time and how you’re feeling is important.
How have you been staying mentally healthy during COVID-19?
I’ve been hiking, running and spending time outdoors as much as possible. I’ve also been practicing mindfulness regularly, and just trying to make the most of all the self-care options that are available to me right now.
I found it helpful talking to the clinical lead and debriefing after some of the more difficult clinical calls. I also make sure that I enjoy my time off and make the most of my weekends.
If you’re having a difficult time and need support, don’t hesitate to make the most of this excellent resource. To reach out to the Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service, you can set up a web chat or call the phone line: 1800 512 348, which is available 24/7, seven days a week.