Coronavirus: Mental health helplines, Ministry of Social Development receive 'unprecedented' amount of calls during the lockdown

Mental health helplines and the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) are receiving an unprecedented number of calls as people struggle emotionally during New Zealand's COVID-19 lockdown.

Civil Defence emergency management director Sarah Stuart-Black says in the past three weeks, 17 percent of people who called mental health helpline 'Need to Talk?' were severely distressed.

"A significant number of New Zealanders are finding things emotionally or financially tough," Stuart-Black told reporters on Thursday.

She said there had been more than 1700 Kiwis called 'Need to Talk?' in the past three weeks.

Many people are worried about moving out of alert level 4, she said.

"Since alert level 4 began, Civil Defence emergency management groups have more than 18,000 outreach telephone calls to vulnerable groups," she said. "They've also worked with community groups distributing tens of thousands of food parcels to those in need," said Stuart-Black.

She said on April 18, the national telehealth service also received 5300 calls - compared to 798 on the same day last year.

Sarah Stuart-Black.
Sarah Stuart-Black. Photo credit: Getty

She said MSD continues to process "unprecedented" levels of applications, calls, and appointments.

In the past month, just less than 500,000 wage and leave subsidy applications have been received, she said.

"More than 400,000 of these have been approved," Stuart-Black said. "More than 40,000 New Zealanders over the age of 70 have been contacted as part of an MSD coordinated community outreach targeting older people living alone." 

Earlier in the press conference, Police Commissioner Andrew Coster revealed there had been 423 breaches of New Zealand's COVID-19 lockdown in the past 24 hours alone.

Stuart-Black reiterated restrictions are still stringent when New Zealand moves to alert level 3 on Tuesday.

"We're not out of the woods by any measure but if you're struggling, for whatever reason, there is help available so please do reach out," she said.

Where to find help and support: 

  • Shine (domestic violence) - 0508 744 633
  • Women's Refuge - 0800 733 843 (0800 REFUGE)
  • Need to Talk? - Call or text 1737
  • What's Up - 0800 WHATS UP (0800 942 8787)
  • Lifeline - 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland
  • Youthline - 0800 376 633, text 234, email or online chat
  • Samaritans - 0800 726 666
  • Depression Helpline - 0800 111 757
  • Suicide Crisis Helpline - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
  • Shakti Community Council - 0800 742 584