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Food for thought: soaring costs fuel mental health struggles

Australians are reaching out for help in ways they've never done before, reports Molly Davis

Interest rate rises, skyrocketing grocery prices and housing costs are driving many Australians to seek outside help including for mental health issues, frontline support services say.

The cost of essentials like groceries is fuelling pressures on people who have never sought welfare assistance before. (Photo: Madison Inouye)

With inflation soaring, welfare groups say the cost of basic essentials is fuelling demand for help, with the cost of food front of mind for many.

Jennifer Kirkaldy, general manager of policy and advocacy for the Salvation Army, said one in three people were identifying rising prices as the main reason for seeking support. “A third of everyone who comes to us is identifying cost of living,” she said.

Dr Anna Brooks, Lifeline Australia’s chief research officer, said: “Financial stress and uncertainty can contribute to mental ill health. There is also evidence to suggest that people can experience distress and suicidal thoughts when facing financial stress and uncertainty. “

Boroondara Community Outreach, a mental health ministry located in the Kew Uniting Church hall, is seeing people needing help who had never sought outside assistance before. The centre offers food relief and other services for disadvantaged members of the Boroondara community.

Co-ordinator and minister Natalie Dixon-Monu said the centre recorded 52 new people seeking emergency relief. between February and March.

Natalie Dixon-Moyo is seeing soaring demand for cost-of-living and mental health assistance. (Photo: Molly Davis)

“We’re getting a lot of phone calls from people saying they’ve never done this before. A lot of people who have never in their life accessed emergency relief,” she said. Ms Dixon-Monu said many local businesses were fantastic supporters of the centre's food relief programs. “Coles Local in Hawthorn have been really good for us. Already this year I’ve done two pick-ups of about 40 boxes of donated non-perishables,” she said.


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