There are fears some of our most vulnerable Kiwis are battling on alone over lockdown rather than reaching out for help when they most need it.

Health and wellbeing consultancy Instep says for some home is not an environment where they feel safe, or the isolation and stress of lockdown is particularly challenging on their mental health.

Instep says it put in place more online counselling as soon as the country went into lockdown – but noticed rather than taking up that option, many of those who really needed the help instead chose to wait until they could talk to someone face-to-face.

“There were a couple of reasons for this,” says Lorraine Rowlands, General Manager of Instep. “In some instances, it’s because they find it hard to discuss personal issues over the phone or internet. While for others, being home isn’t a safe place and they are fearful of being overheard.

“It’s crucial,” says Rowlands, “that people who are vulnerable know they are not alone. And waiting rather than addressing the issue when they aren’t well can mean the situation becomes critical.

“We want to encourage people who are feeling this way to know that there are people who can help them. Contact your Employment Assistance Provider (EAP), if your employer has one, or get in touch with any of the other helplines that are available. But don’t wait.”

Rowlands is keen to point out that all counsellors are required by their professional bodies to follow strict guidelines around how they conduct e-counselling sessions. So, though building rapport can be harder in an online environment, confidentiality is still paramount and trained professionals, such as those at Instep, are working hard to adjust to the new environment and find ways to make sure their clients feel safe.

“If individuals need to have a way to talk safely, they could either go out for a walk or to the park and find a private place to talk away from their home environment.”

Rowlands is also concerned by commentary from a One Picture COVID Conversations study that shows that as the Alert Levels continue, general anxiety among Kiwis is also growing. Particularly around financial security and job security.

“The uncertainty of the situation for New Zealand is something most people find challenging. But then, for people who are already stressed by their home environment or have other issues they are dealing with, the additional sense of anxiety that also permeates from others around them just adds heightened stress.”

Ultimately, Rowlands’ message to those struggling is: “Please don’t wait. There will be ways you can still talk to someone in a way that you feel comfortable with. So get in touch, don’t wait this out alone.”

If individuals need urgent help for themselves or others, Instep encourages them not to hesitate in calling 111 for emergency services, or getting in touch with hospitals, Youthline, Women’s Refuge or other community support organisations – and removing themselves from dangerous situations immediately.