We are experiencing unprecedented change during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are self-isolating, practising physical distancing and, for the first time, all University learning has been moved online.
Such extreme changes to our daily routines can be stressful. As a result, some people might turn to gambling, drinking, using drugs or smoking cigarettes as a way to cope.
These activities might have been part of your pre-COVID life, but when we factor in the change we’re experiencing and the spare time we suddenly have, it’s possible some of us might to rely on these behaviours to the point where they become harmful.
And while these activities always pose some risk, their danger is more pronounced during the a pandemic. For example:
- You might be tempted to use gambling as a way to recover income lost as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.
- Alcohol and drug intoxication can also affect your breathing and put you more at risk of becoming ill if you contract COVID-19.
- People who smoke are generally at higher risk of respiratory tract infections, and there is growing evidence that people who smoke may be at higher risk of COVID-19 and its complications.
So, when does gambling, drinking, using drugs or smoking cigarettes become harmful?
In general, gambling, drinking, using drugs or smoking cigarettes is considered harmful when it impacts your ability to engage in and successfully complete your daily activities and responsibilities.
Signs gambling, drinking, using drugs or smoking cigarettes is becoming a problem include:
- An inability to stop doing the activity
- Doing the activity to deal with other problems
- Not doing other tasks, activities or responsibilities, e.g. studying, because of the activity
- Spending more time and more time doing the activity
- Engaging in risky behaviour, e.g. violence, spending large sums of money on the activity
- Stopping other activities are usually enjoyable
- Spending money for living expenses on the activity
- Attempting to hide the activity from friends and family
- Noticeable changes to sleeping, eating and hygiene
- Withdrawing from social interactions (even online) with friends and family
If you think that you or someone you know is experiencing problems with gambling, alcohol/drug use or smoking, know that you are not alone, you can seek help. There are a range of specialist services that can provide you with expert advice, support, information and referrals.
Across Australia you can access online information and counselling at National Gambling Helpline or call 1800 858 858 to speak to someone.
National Debt Helpline is a telephone line available Monday to Friday, 9:30 am to 4:30 pm to discuss any problems related to debt.
Alcohol and drug use
For 24/7 confidential alcohol and drug counselling and referral in Victoria visit DirectLine or call 1800 888 236.
Across Australia you can access online information and counselling at Counselling Online or you can call the National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline 1800 250 015 to speak to someone.
For information and resources on quitting smoking, visit Quit, you can also book a call back or call the Quitline directly on 13 7848 for specialist counselling support.
Specialist Queer Support
QLife offers a free counselling and referral service for LGBTQIA+ people experiencing any issue that may affect their health and wellbeing. Available 3:00 pm to 12:00 am.
Help at La Trobe
The Student Wellbeing service can also assist you with information, support, and referrals.
We have a range of services available to support students, including Counselling, Equity and Diversity, and Speak Up. We operate during business hours, offering phone and Zoom appointments.
After-hours support service is also available by calling 1300 146 307 or text 0488 884 100. This service operates 5pm – 9am on weekdays and 24 hours during weekends and public holidays.
During the COVID-19 pandemic try to stay calm, remember to manage your wellbeing and be reassured that everything that is happening is only temporary.