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’Disturbing’ impact of pandemic on kids

Kids Helpline has faced 3000 more contacts a week during the coronavirus pandemic.The counselling service for young people saw a 32 per cent increase in duty of care interventions between January 1 and July 31.The increase was driven by suicide attempts (26 per cent), child abuse (33 per cent) and mental health escalation (60 per…

Kids Helpline has faced 3000 more contacts a week during the coronavirus pandemic.

The counselling service for young people saw a 32 per cent increase in duty of care interventions between January 1 and July 31.

The increase was driven by suicide attempts (26 per cent), child abuse (33 per cent) and mental health escalation (60 per cent).

There has been an overall increase of 24 per cent for counselling nationally since the pandemic hit, with Victoria the worst state impacted because of ongoing lockdowns.

“In Victoria the longevity of the lockdown measures and uncertainty around education and the increased restrictions and disruptions to the community has led to the vulnerability of the state’s children and young people,” yourtown head of advocacy and research, Kathryn Mandla, said.

“This has resulted in a 28 per cent spike in demand in Victoria between March and July compared to the same time in 2019.

“Victoria saw a surge in demand of 8 per cent in July compared with the previous month.”

Ms Adams said they had increased counsellor capacity with more than 50 more counsellors since March.

“We knew an increase in child vulnerability was going to occur through the COVID-19 lockdown and containment, however the challenges faced by our children and young people is very disturbing,” she said.

“We are seeing some very distressed children and young people who have to deal with existing parental abuse and conflict during the pandemic.”

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Gold Coast 11-year-old Aiden Tillotson said he had called Kids Helpline earlier in the pandemic.

“I was kind of sad I couldn’t see my friends, travel overseas, do my sport and was kept inside,” the avid BMX rider said.

“I really enjoy seeing my friends.”

Last year Aiden competed in the UCI BMX World Championships in Belgium.

Aiden said he found the counselling service very helpful.

“They’d tell me things I can do and how to not be so lonely,” he said.

“They said I should FaceTime my friends.

“I think it’s very important if you’re experiencing something bad, it helps a lot.”

Aiden’s mum Michelle said if he didn’t feel comfortable to speak to her or his dad it was important someone was always there to listen to him.

“Given Aiden has got such a good heart and a soft soul, having that service available is great for him,” she said.

“The first day of online learning the whole system crashed so Aiden was quite upset, he thought he was going to get behind in study.

“He’s been tested for COVID as well so he wasn’t allowed to leave the home.

“Sometimes it might be uncomfortable for them to address things with their parents. They’re not going to be judged and get advice.”

Kids Helpline is Australia’s only national 24/7 counselling and support service specifically for children and young people aged 5 to 25 years and is available to call for free on 1800 55 1800.

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