Calling helpline

Psychological support seekers flock to Malta chatlines

Psychological support seekers flock to Malta chatlines calls for mental wellbeing to be prioritised on a par with sanitary health

The coronavirus pandemic is taking its toll not only on elderly people with accompanying illnesses. Worries and anxieties related to the invisible threat are prodding a growing number of people to seek psychological counselling or simply talk to someone – safely over the Internet.

Malta, one of the last European countries to be hit by the coronavirus outbreak, makes no exception., an NGO-run project which offers online support to young people, registered 200 chats between last Monday and Friday – 80 more compared to the previous week.

As the service coordinator Kurt Abela told the Times of Malta, users’ main worry was about contracting the virus themselves or along with their loved ones. Abela says psychologically most vulnerable are those with a predisposition to mental illness like anxiety or depression.

And he calls for mental wellbeing to be prioritised along with sanitary health, given the rise in the calls for help over the past weeks. “There’s no point in having everyone being hygienic but then having them totally break down,” reiterates Abela.

Mainstream and social media exacerbating the anxiety

Much of this anxiety is caused not by the possibility of getting infected, but by the inability to escape hearing about the virus 24 hours a day over mainstream and social media. So, Abela advocates spreading more positive messages, by any means.

A new helpline in Malta called Hear to Help, also reported a flood of calls by people experiencing anxiety due to fear of the unknown and loneliness related to the coronovirus. Helpline founder Sabine Agius Cabourdin, too, is taking social media to task for exacerbating the anxiety.

She advises people to spend less time on Facebook and other news-hungry sites and connect more with their loved ones. She also calls for a united front to address the economic fallout of the virus, as losing one’s job is another powerful source of stress.



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