COVID-19 — and the financial, workplace and social challenges that it has created — has thrown a spanner in the works for many people, especially those who are already struggling with stress and mental health issues.
The Lifeline initiative National Stress Down Day is officially held on 24th July each year, and National Communication and Public Affairs Manager Ina Mullin said that this year, it is more important than ever for people to pause and discuss mental health with colleagues in the workplace.
“Australians are turning to Lifeline now, more than at any other time in our history,” said Mullin. “Every month since March has seen almost 90,000 calls per month. We are receiving a call from a person feeling overwhelmed every 30 seconds.”
With the announcement of the second Victorian lockdown, Lifeline saw a 22% increase in calls during that week.
“Last week, 44% of people who contacted Lifeline wanted to talk about COVID-19,” said Mullen.
Stress Down Day was established in 2009, in response to research conducted by Lifeline that showed stress is a problem for many Australians.
“The most recent version of that research was published in 2016,” Mullen continued. “It found that 90% of Australians need to stress less – with 74% of people reporting being stressed from work.”
“Stress Down Day provides a great opportunity to realise the importance of ensuring an environment that prioritises the wellbeing of employees as well as members of the community,” said Mullen. “It’s a fun take on a serious issue with the bonus of opening up the conversation and allowing people to let others know that they are happy to talk about mental health.”
“We want people to use the opportunity to have fun, connect with each other and encourage help seeking behaviours.”
Mullen said that Stress Down Day is designed to be flexible, so activities can be tailored to work place culture.
“In previous years, some organisations have encouraged employees to wear pyjamas or tracksuits to work, and others have gone Hawaiian,” Mullen said. “I always look forward to the opportunity to wear my ugg boots, but I have to say this year, throughout COVID-19, I’ve been wearing them so often, I might take the opportunity dress up instead!”
“It doesn’t matter what you do, they main thing is, you take a moment to reflect on your own mental wellbeing and the wellbeing of others and create an opportunity to connect with each other.”
The 24th of July was chosen to remind people that Lifeline is available 24/7 to anyone who is feeling overwhelmed, needs support or is looking for advice on how to help a loved one in crisis.
But Mullen is quick to add: “We encourage businesses to work the day into their schedule. If 24/7 doesn’t work, they can do it anytime: the important thing is that the discussion around mental wellbeing happens and the opportunity to connect is created.”
Lifeline can be contacted at any time on 13 11 14.
Sarah Jacob is a journalist and editor and is currently The Advocate's Deputy Editor. She has written for a range of print and online publications across Australia and internationally with a focus on the environment and human rights. Previously she worked in conservation science and protected area management, and has completed postgraduate degrees in journalism and marine science.