Leigh Tour-Mills was able to transition to a new role when COVID-19 destroyed her business but the change hasn’t been easy. After owning and operating salons in various locations for more than 25 years, Ms Tour-Mills sold them six years ago and became a business coach and consultant.
“I had more than 10 businesses on my books and things were progressing well when COVID-19 hit,” she says. “Then my work basically disappeared overnight. A number of my clients closed down their shops and others had to reduce trading hours so significantly they couldn’t afford to keep me on.”
The loss of the business she’d worked diligently to build up over the past six years left Ms Tour-Mills feeling stressed, sad and unsure what to do next.
“Everything unravelled in the space of about two weeks. I couldn’t help my clients because the rules around hairdressing were changing so quickly; I really felt quite useless. On top of that my income dropped rapidly, I was home-schooling my six-year-old and I was making sure my husband’s small business complied with all the new rules so he could keep operating. My head was in a thousand places.”
Ms Tour-Mills was not alone in experiencing the stress and anxiety brought on by COVID-19.
Lifeline chairmen John Brogden says demand for mental healthcare has skyrocketed since the pandemic began. “Calls to our helplines have gone from 2,500 a day 12 months ago to more than 3,000 a day now – an extraordinary increase,” he says.
Beyond Blue also reports a 30 per cent increase in calls since restrictions began.
Fortunately, Ms Tour-Mills has a trade to fall back on and has returned to hairdressing after investing a substantial amount of money to establish a salon at her home.
“I looked for other jobs for a while but there was very little out there,” she says. “In the end, I decided I couldn’t wait any longer for things to improve and started the salon in June.”
Although she counts herself lucky to have a job and a reliable income, Ms Tour-Mills says she still feels a degree of grief.
“I loved my coaching business and I miss the relationship with my clients,” she says. “I’m very fortunate to have work but this is definitely not what I thought I’d be doing.”
Given a vaccine appears to be a long way off, or may never arrive, we all must learn to manage a degree of ongoing stress and uncertainty in our lives for the foreseeable future.
To assist people experiencing stress and anxiety the federal government has partnered with Beyond Blue to offer additional mental health support during the COVID-19 crisis. The service offers free around-the-clock telehealth counselling by mental health professionals.
Go to coronavirus.beyondblue.org.au for a host of coronavirus resources.
Aside from the regular Beyond Blue helpline there is an online community forum where people can share how they are coping.
Lifeline is also available for 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention services on 13 11 14.