How to cope when these difficult times are getting too much

12 April 2022

It may feel that everywhere we turn at the moment we hear stories and see images of traumatic events.

Recent news coverage has been filled with a constant stream of distressing stories, from the war in Ukraine to violent storms and historic flooding in the Eastern States.

These events come on top of the news reports about the record numbers of people who have COVID-19 in our local communities and the ongoing mental health effects of the pandemic.

For many, it may feel that the world is a dark place at the moment.

We know that people who have experienced traumatic events such as war or natural disasters are subject to extreme stress, which can lead to physical, mental and emotional exhaustion.

But watching these events unfold from a distance can have a similar effect.

We know that many people are struggling because Lifeline WA’s 13 11 14 telephone crisis line is having a surge in calls from people expressing feelings of overwhelming sadness and helplessness.

Last year was the busiest year in Lifeline WA’s history.

Demand for our services is continuing to increase this year. March 2022 was the busiest month we’ve ever experienced, with Lifeline WA helping 6639 people through calls, text or chat.

To put this in perspective, in March last year we answered 4156 calls from help seekers, meaning there was an increase of almost 60 per cent compared with the same time last year.

These call records are indicative of the anxiety being felt in the community.

Many of us are mentally exhausted from two years of having to recalibrate to an ever-changing world as COVID-19 has affected how we live, communicate, socialise and work. Being faced with these new events on top of this exhaustion is difficult for many people to process without feeling overwhelmed.

But there is a lot we can do to care for the emotional and mental wellbeing for ourselves, our families and our communities.

First, we should acknowledge that it’s natural to feel sad, helpless or angry when confronted by media coverage of distressing events.

But when it becomes overwhelming, intrusive and starts to adversely affect your life, then it’s time to make changes.

Taking positive action, whether donating to a cause you believe in, or signing a petition can help you to feel like you are making a difference.

Taking a break from the 24/7 news cycle to replenish your soul can be incredibly helpful, not to mention the benefits of less screen time.

If you don’t want to cut off news completely, try to limit your access and only seek reliable sources.

And don’t forget, there are plenty of good news stories out there, too.

Talking to a family member, good friend or colleague about how you are feeling can also help lessen the emotional load.

The effect on people’s mental health from major traumatic events can last for many months. But if you are feeling overwhelmed or distressed, it’s not something you have to deal with alone.

If you need help, call Lifeline.

Our crisis supporters are trained to support people through emotional distress and anguish; it’s what we do. We are grateful every time someone makes the decision to pick up the phone and call us instead of suffering alone.

In light of recent events, our volunteers have stepped up to take on more shifts, and Lifeline WA is recruiting and training more crisis supporters to answer the unprecedented number of calls.

That means help is always available, and there is always someone to listen. We hope that knowing that reminds people there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Lorna MacGregor is the chief executive of Lifeline WA.