New statistics have revealed the devastating impact the coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns have had on young Victorians.
Speaking on Sunday, the state’s Mental Health Minister, Martin Foley, said there had been a 33 per cent increase in people aged under 18 presenting at emergency departments are self-harming across the state.
“We know that the global pandemic since March has seen a substantial increase in demand for all of the services that state, Commonwealth and community organisations provide in this area,” he said.
“These are figures to the end of July – we've seen a 9.5 per cent increase year-on-year for presentations for self-harm in our emergency departments across all age groups.”
On Friday, it was announced $26 million would be put towards supporting young people in dealing with mental illness, and on Sunday Mr Foley announced an additional $59.7 million.
“To focus particularly on that acute end of the mental illness spectrum in response to the increasing demand that our acute services have seen – whether they be in a clinical setting in a hospital, or in a community setting,” he said.
“We know that particularly at the moment, we want to keep those people with mental illness away from emergency departments.
“Emergency departments are busy at the best of times, particularly now in the height of a pandemic.”
Before the first lockdown – which saw all of Australia living in unprecedented conditions – and long before Victoria’s second lockdown, it was anticipated mental health related issues would spike.
Mr Foley acknowledged the coronavirus pandemic was stressful, but said there was support available and all levels of government were working to present a united message “of hope, of resilience and recovery”.
“The pandemic is seeing anxiety and depression levels rise quite substantially, but there is help out there,” he said.
“So if you need support, call Beyond Blue, call Lifeline, call any numbers of the specialist organisations out there and get the support that you need, because it is available,” Mr Foley added.
The pandemic has thrust mental health into the spotlight, with agencies weaving in mental health support in with their response plan.
In May, ReachOut CEO Ashley de Silva told Yahoo News Australia more than 800,000 people had accessed its services in just three months.
“The data we’ve seen in this period is that large numbers of young people are seeking help and that’s exactly the kind of thing you want to see,” Mr de Silva said.
The Australian Government has provided $12 million to frontline services like Beyond Blue, Suicide Helpline, Lifeline and others, Mr Foley said.
Feeling worried or struggling to cope during the Coronavirus pandemic? Visit coronavirus.beyondblue.org.au or speak with trained counsellors on 1800 512 348.
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