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Move to ‘real world’ to cause anxiety for some

File photo.

Mental health workers are bracing for a surge in anxiety cases under Alert Level 1, as people feel distressed by the return to a more hectic world after the calm of the previous levels.

The Cabinet will decide today whether to move to level 1, which has no restrictions on physical distancing and gathering sizes.

Victoria University clinical psychologist Dougal Sutherland says many people found they settled into lockdown level 4 quite well.

"[They went] 'Ah, actually this is safe, it's controllable, it's predictable, I know what's going to happen, I can pretty much control everything around me.'"

As the country moved down the alert levels, the changes caused anxiety levels to spike again and again.

"Any time that you have change and uncertainty, that's a time when people are likely to feel stress and anxiety."

Dougal says some people would be dreading the move to level 1.

He says those people might think: 'Now I've got to go back into the real world and actually, I've been spending eight weeks not really socialising and it has been quite good. And now I have to go back out there and I've been avoiding these situations.'

"So it brings with it a whole lot of new challenges having to get back into all those situations that you might have been avoiding previously."

He says during the pandemic, an interesting pattern emerged.

There was one group who had not previously suffered poor mental health but who had struggled during the pandemic, and another who lived with anxiety but felt quite calm during it because the upheaval in the outside world matched their internal state.

"[They felt] 'almost normal because everybody else has this anxiety as well'."

He says in the coming months, he expected to see more people stressed and depressed as the economic consequences of the pandemic started to bite, and this could go on for years.

Dougal says large events such as the COVID-19 pandemic always led to a surge in demand for mental health services.

But many psychologists and therapists were already at capacity, and he did not know how the system would cope.

Where to get help:

Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 or text HELP to 4357

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7) or text 4202

Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)

Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email talk@youthline.co.nz

What's Up: online chat (3pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 helpline (12pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-11pm weekends)

Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754 (24/7)

Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254

Healthline: 0800 611 116

Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

-RNZ

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