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Kids Helpline Sees Surge In Coronavirus Related Calls

Children as young as seven are turning to the Kids Helpline for support as they struggle to come to terms with the impacts of the coronavirus outbreak.

As of Monday, the free online and telephone counselling service for young Australians has seen a 17 per cent increase in demand since last week.

The 24-hour service recorded its first contact about concern over the coronavirus back in January. Since then, the number of coronavirus related contacts have increased by 25 times.

"We're seeing a sizable increase in contacts, more than 200 a day in excess of what we would normally have," CEO Tracy Adams told 10 News First.

"I think the whole community is really struggling to come to terms with where we are at, it's happening so fast and change is happening every day."

A Kids Helpline spokesperson said young people were calling with widespread anxieties about the outbreak, including navigating normal activities in the event of self-isolation or shutdown and concern about how it could trigger existing mental health issues.

Some young people were also anxious about the impacts of the virus on their family -- especially their grandparents, the spokesperson said.

Cameron Murray from the Teacher's Professional Association Queensland, told 10 News First it was normal that children would be worried about their grandparents, parents and their relatives overseas.

Adams said the majority of people calling Kids Helpline with coronavirus-related concerns were in the 19-25 year age group (45 per cent).

But they are not the only ones. 40 per cent of contact to Kids Helpline specifically about coronavirus concerns were in the 13-18-year-old age group. One contact was just seven.

Image: Getty

Adams said it was essential that young people weren't bottling up their concerns and stressed that Kids Helpline would be available in the short and long term to help support them through the health crisis in the coming months or even years.

There are also ways parents and carers can support young people at home, primary by focusing on what can be controlled, Adams said.

"Allowing children to Skype their grandparents or to talk to them on the phone," she suggested.

"To create that sense that they're still there, they're well, they're happy, they're there for them even though they may not be able to see them face to face."

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While Australians have been told there is no need for panic around COVID-19, the complexity of the disease and its community impacts can be difficult to comprehend for adults let alone for young children.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has also encouraged parents to chat to their children about the crisis.

"Parents should sit down and have a good long chat to their kids and let them know everything is going to be ok and we are going to get through this," she said.

If you're a young Australian aged between 5-25 you can contact the Kids Helpline 24 hours, 7 days a week. Phone: 1800 551 800 or visit: www.kidshelpline.com.au