Kids in crisis over COVID

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Ailish DelaneySouth Western Times
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Children looking at their smart phones.
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Children are battling the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, with Kids Helpline reporting a significant increase in contact made over the last three months compared to the same period last year.

New data has revealed young people are contacting the service in increasing numbers relating to issues around child abuse, mental health, self-harm and suicide.

Kids Helpline identified 11,256 people contacted the service for support about these issues during the April to June period, compared to 8438 this time last year.

The website traffic also saw a surge of searches for mental health topics during the pandemic at a rate four times greater than average compared to the same period in 2019.

Ms Adams said support services were seeing firsthand the repercussions the pandemic was having on the mental health of young people across the country.

“We knew an increase in child vulnerability was going to occur, but this is deeper than we had expected,” she said. “As COVID-19 started to grip Australia early this year it spurred increased anxiety as well as increases in contacts to the counselling services.”

Bunbury psychologist Jay Anderson said the pandemic brought about potentially destabilising changes.

“Parents may be more anxious or stressed themselves, and therefore not able to cope with usual parenting or with any increased challenging behaviours in children,” Mrs Anderson said.

“Loss of jobs, unable to travel or have plans fulfilled, financial stress in families — all of this can contribute to parents being more stressed which means there is additional impacts on parent-child relationships as well.”

Mrs Anderson said the best way for young people to manage their feelings was to share them with someone who understood — a friend, adult or professional. “It’s important for parents to be available for their children, able to listen and help children to manage the ‘tricky’ feelings and thoughts.”

The State Government recently announced a new emergency mental health service for young people, which can be accessed seven days a week on 1800 048 636.

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