Ethical dilemmas during lockdown have seen a boom in the number of calls to a helpline that provides counselling for people confused about what to do.

Sydney-based Ethic-call has seen a jump of 600 per cent in appointments over the past few months as Australians struggle with life in lockdown, with many expressing a sense of being overwhelmed.

Common problems include concerns around the coronavirus, vaccinations and dealing with elderly parents.

One of the most common themes is the complexity of family. With COVID-19, we’ve an environment that is really uncertain,” trained ethics counsellor Cris Parker told Central News.  “We have to ask ourselves what we should do about the simplest of things, ‘Should I take my kids to see my mother’, for example.

“There’s a lot around putting elderly parents into aged care, particularly when it goes against their parents sense of independence or wants.”

A part of the Ethics Centre in Sydney’s CBD, the free call line was set up to help people decide what to do about situations with sometimes complex resolutions, but has increasingly had to work through solutions to questions around socialisation.

Many Australians are concerned about parents living alone during lockdown, with decisions complicated by current aged care related risk. This has been further exacerbated by coronavirus outbreaks at Sydney aged care homes.

COVID-19 also presents ethical dilemmas in professional life. Outbreaks present tension between staying in the job or speaking up against lax office rules.

[You can’t] see the usual person you might for dinner and have a big old chinwag about what’s bothering you.

“[It’s] people feeling that their organisation isn’t taking enough duty or care,” Parker said. “Fear around that, and the idea of ‘I want to keep my job but I feel unsafe.’ It’s a really hard situation.”

Additionally, Parker, who  also works at The Ethics Centre, said complex moral conversations with friends have been limited during lockdown.

“[You can’t] see the usual person you might for dinner and have a big old chinwag about what’s bothering you,” Parker said.

Calls to mental health lines have also increased in NSW during the pandemic and in July the federal health department set aside an additional $12.5 million for the state government to ensure people were able to access urgent mental health support.

New Ethic-call counsellors have had to be recruited to manage the larger call volumes at the centre.

“We ran an expression of interest to recruit some new counsellors. We started that training back in February and that cohort has just graduated,” Ethi-call’s director Michelle Bloom said.

The training teaches counsellors a philosophy-centred framework to help clients progress through challenging decisions. Counsellors don’t express opinions or offer solutions. Instead, they ask a series of questions that engage clients. 

And Bloom says the benefits of Ethi-call don’t stop at the clients. 

“It’s a massive privilege to be able to listen to someone and they [the counsellors] really love it. We’ve had counsellors for 25 years because they just love it so much,” she said.

Main image: Supplied by Ethi-call.