During the COVID-19 pandemic, over a million Australians have sought mental health treatment with September 2020 seeing a 14 per cent increase in MBS items for mental health. While data reveals that 65 per cent of all GP presentations are for mental health issues, only around half of those who experience mental illness will ever seek help.
Only around half of those who experience mental illness seek help
Mental health stressors
Stressors vary but may include unemployment, recession, social isolation, relationship and family challenges, drug and alcohol issues and a feeling of loss of control over the basics of daily life.
The risk of severe and ongoing stress and even an increase in suicidal risk linked with Australia's COVID-19 lockdown is real. Data released by the Victorian coroner in September 2020 found that there had not been an increase in the number of people committing suicide in the state during the coronavirus pandemic. But the chief executive of Suicide Prevention Australia, Nieves Murray, has warned that there will be a spike in deaths from self-harm when the pandemic's economic impacts hit. Global statistics show that suicide rates rise when economics are in a recession. And Australia has now entered its worst recession in nearly a century. Suicide is the leading cause of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children between the ages of five and 17, which is entirely unacceptable.
The Government has invested an additional $500 million in mental health services during the COVID-19 pandemic to broaden access to mental health support. A total of $5.7 billion has been committed for mental health support this year with a $115 million extension to the Rural Health Outreach Fund; thus more mental health practitioners will be able to travel to rural and regional areas to provide access. There has been a $2 billion extension of the COVID-19 health response to ensure that telehealth services, particularly those that relate to mental health consultations, will be available to people in regional, rural and remote areas until at least the end of March 2021.
Have a conversation
When it comes to primary prevention, we can all do something. COVID has shown us that mental wellbeing is incredibly important, and that compassion – including self-compassion – can be vitally useful.
You have nothing to lose by having a conversation with someone to determine how you are feeling. Taking the step to vocalise what you are experiencing will lift some of the weight. If you've had some experiences that leave you feeling down regularly, if you start feeling that things are pointless, hopeless or overwhelming, or if you are not taking any real joy in the things you usually relish, talk to someone. Talk to your GP. Wouldn't you do this if you felt persistent pain or some other physical symptom?
Don't see yourself as needing to be stoic. The strong thing to do is to take control and reach out for help when you need it.
Get the help you deserve
The Government is closely monitoring moods and stress in these unprecedented times and is committed to providing funds and resources to aid Australians and their families.
If you or anyone you know needs help, contact:
Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636
Care Leavers Australasia Network (CLAN): 1800 008 774
Headspace: 1800 650 890
Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800
Lifeline: 13 11 14
MensLine Australia: 1300 789 978
Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467