Covid lockdown Greater Sydney –

Covid lockdown Greater Sydney: Calls for help to Lifeline, Parents Beyond Breakup surge

Sydney’s lockdown has pushed many of the community’s most vulnerable to breaking point, with crisis helplines reporting a surge in calls for help.


Calls to suicide crisis lines have surged as people in Greater Sydney battle on during an extended Covid-19 lockdown, with one service reporting a 30 per cent spike in calls for help.

With millions of people isolated, out of work and separated from social networks, suicide prevention services Parents Beyond Breakup (PBB) and Lifeline have witnessed more people needing urgent help than ever before.

Residents across Greater Sydney, including the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong and Shellharbour, received the news this week that stay-at-home orders for the region would be extended for at least another week, as the highly contagious Delta variant continued to spread.

PBB operates nationwide with a specific focus on non-custodial parents, including mothers and fathers who have been separated from their children.

PBB chief executive Gillian Hunt told Covid lockdowns in Sydney and Melbourne had led to a surge in calls for assistance, with many parents experiencing severe mental distress.

The charity’s suicide helpline, which operates Monday-Sunday, has seen a 30 per cent spike in calls during the current Sydney lockdown, compared to the same time last year.

“With that helpline we are seeing, specifically in the last three weeks since lockdown has begun in NSW, our team cannot keep up with the calls,” Ms Hunt said.

“We’re seeing high levels of distress.

“We noticed a similar trend when Victoria and Melbourne went into lockdown. We had a similar spike in the calls coming in because Melburnians were really struggling with the isolation.

“When the lines open up in the morning, we’ve got so many calls backed up, so many messages, and we follow up on every single one, that we’ve had to put on extra staff members to cope with that.”

Ms Hunt said among some of the most concerning situations were parents who were left homeless with teenage children due to obstacles in accessing accommodation services during lockdown.

The service had also assisted a highly distressed parent who had contemplated taking her own life and that of her children.

PBB’s peer support groups have also taken on an increased load during lockdown.

“We have had to take our peer support groups online, the face-to-face contact that was our weekly support for mums and dads is no longer available, so we are seeing massively overwhelming numbers coming into our online meetings, which we have everyday,” Ms Hunt said.

“We’re having to put more facilitators on where we are actually having breakout rooms in the meetings to support them.

“The case is Covid is having an impact on business but more importantly it’s having a huge impact on people’s mental stability and wellbeing.”

Crisis support helpline Lifeline has also reported a significant rise in calls during lockdowns across the country, with calls in some areas increasing as much as 50 per cent in May and June.

A Lifeline spokesperson said the compounding distress of the 2019-20 bushfires crisis and the pandemic had generated sustained trauma in the community.

“As Australians have grappled with the past two years of crises they’ve reached out for help like never before,” a spokesperson said.

“Lifeline has experienced record demand for our services over the past two years.

“As an essential service, Lifeline’s volunteers have been there for Australians all throughout this pandemic and they will continue to be there.

“Lockdowns have also increased demand for crisis support and suicide prevention during the period in which they occur.

“Even without lockdowns, Lifeline is not forecasting a return to the demand patterns that pre-date the 2019-20 bushfires.”

Contact Parents Beyond Breakup on 1300 853 437

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