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Supporting our Callers, and Counsellors, in the time of COVID

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“The Help Centre plays an important role in supplementing the public and private mental health systems, which are under great strain – especially during the pandemic.” 

With demand for the SANE Help Centre up by more than 50% this year, we had a chat with our dedicated counsellor Gavan, learning more about callers’ concerns during COVID-19, and how SANE pivoted with new technology to meet greater demand. 

This year with additional investment we’ve been able to recruit seven new counsellors, as we strive to meet increased demand. 

Can you give towards the Help Centre before 31 December 2020 and support the vital work of our counsellors? Click here to donate today.   

SANE: Thanks so much for chatting with us, Gavan. How has the transition to working from home been for you as a Help Centre counsellor? 

Gavan: It was business as usual through summer, but by mid-March the Help Centre was required to shift to remote working conditions as COVID-19 spread rapidly. Initially we could only return calls, but soon we were equipped with internet telephony for taking and making calls.  

Thankfully, with the use of new technology, seekers and SANE Forums members are now able to have the same, if not better service access. This has been crucial, as the mental health vulnerabilities of most if not all of us have increased during the pandemic.  

As a Help Centre counsellor, it has been both a rewarding and challenging time. Rewarding as I have been able to continue to counsel and support an increased number of callers and Forum users. But also challenging, because many of the supports I have previously relied on to assist me are now only provided remotely.   

Fortunately, SANE has gone out of its way to assist us with new peer support and buddy systems in the Help Centre to ensure we remain connected as a team. The phone, video call and Zoom meetings are now the bread and butter of my work. Not commuting to and from the office saves me time and money, but I miss greatly the immediate contact and face-to-face support from my wonderful Help Centre colleagues and other SANE staff.    

SANE: What are the main concerns of callers to the Help Centre during COVID-19? 

Gavan: Many callers have described the negative impact COVID and lockdown restrictions have had on their mental wellbeing. COVID has brought isolation, worry, loss of income, fewer support options, and scarcer mental health services for many, as well as trauma, grief and bereavement for some. My work in supporting these callers has never been more important, and I have wondered how health and mental health professionals in nations that have not been able to contain the virus like we have in Australia have coped. My heart goes out to them and their clients. 

SANE: Is there a particular call from this year that stands out in your memory? 

Gavan: A man from a small town in regional Australia rang me in a distressed state one evening. He had been recently discharged from a mental health clinic in a nearby city after treatment for depression and alcohol use. He lived alone and had waited all day for the check in and support phone call he was expecting from the clinic. It had not come.

His adult children lived apart in a quarantined state and he missed them dearly. He was in despair that his suicidal thoughts had returned, and said he just wanted someone to come and help him. After I provided counselling and support the man was able to recover some equilibrium and hope. He committed to keeping himself safe and agreed to contact his GP and the clinic in the morning.  

SANE: Thanks for sharing that story, Gavan. Why do you think services like the SANE Help Centre are so important? 

Gavan: The Help Centre is a vitally important service as it’s free, accessible, independent and professional. The Help Centre plays an important role in supplementing the public and private mental health systems, which are under great strain – especially during the pandemic. Most importantly, we specialise in supporting people affected by complex mental health issues. We provide a trauma-informed service, guided by best practices in support and recovery. In our work, we honour the wisdom and experiences of people affected by complex mental health issues.  

How to Access SANE Australia's Services

If you (or someone you know) needs support - the SANE Help Centre is open from Monday - Friday, 10am - 10pm AEST. Our team of counsellors are available by phone, web chat and email, so you can comfortably communicate in the way that feels best for you.

We can provide you with counselling, support, information and referrals, and we specialise in assisting adults who identify as having a complex mental health issue, complex trauma or high levels of psychological distress.

We also provide support to the family or friends that care about these people.

Click to visit the SANE Help Centre now.

If you'd like to chat with other people who understand what you're going through, the SANE Forums are online 24/7. There's one Forum for Lived Experience, and another for family, friends or carers. The Forums are anonymous, and moderated by health professionals, to keep the conversation safe and supportive.

Click to visit the SANE Forums now.

Supporting Our Work 

The SANE Help Centre wouldn’t exist without the generosity of our donors and supporters. If you’re in a position to do so, we hope that you will a consider a gift towards the Help Centre. All donations, no matter the size, make a difference. Visit sane.org/donate/ to give today.    

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