It’s no secret that there’s a serious cost of living crisis going on in Australia right now. With the price of groceries skyrocketing, many landlords raising renters’ costs, electricity prices soaring – not to mention the ever-increasing interest rates – there are very few of us who are lucky enough to say we’ve managed to escape the pinch.
But if the conditions so many of us are facing right now weren’t already tough enough, new data from Lifeline has revealed the extent of the effect it’s taking on our mental health – and, spoiler alert, it’s not looking good.
The national crisis support charity reports it is currently seeing record activity coming through its website, with more than 26,000 searches for assistance and support in January 2023 alone across Australia. Startlingly, it’s the highest traffic data on record for the organisation. In addition, the organisation reported that referral searches relating to financial issues and homelessness conducted by Lifeline’s helpline counsellors also went up a huge4 49% between August 2022 and January 2023.
“Our centres are reporting an increase in help seekers who have never experienced financial stress before,” says Lifeline Australia CEO Colin Seery. “And we know cost of living pressures also disproportionately impact the most vulnerable, including people who are unemployed, renters and young families.”
Adds Lifeline Australia’s Chief Research Officer, Dr Anna Brooks, “Financial stress and uncertainty can contribute to mental ill health. There is also evidence to suggest that people can experience distress and suicidal thoughts when facing financial stress and uncertainty.”
If you’re struggling with your mental health right now, know that you’re not alone. With 41 centres across the country and 24/7 crisis support via phone, web chat and text, Lifeline is available to provide support, including financial counselling, to anyone in need – and that’s a lot of us right now, it seems, with new data coming to light last week showing that rates of suicide have also increased.
Devastatingly, there was a more than 5% increase in suspected suicide deaths in New South Wales in 2022, with men particularly at risk. Stats from Victoria told a similar story, with the state recording its highest number of annual suicides since 2000 – a 9% increase compared to 2021. “It’s clear from this data and other indicators that people are struggling,” says Nieves Murray, CEO of Suicide Prevention Australia. “It’s a wakeup call – we need more action on suicide prevention.”
Times are incredibly tough and it’s important to seek help if you’re feeling overwhelmed, anxious or noticing any other effects on your own mental health or that of the people around you. You can phone Lifeline to speak to a Crisis Supporter on 13 11 14, text 0477 131 114 for support, or chat to Lifeline online at lifeline.org.au – all services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.