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The federal health minister has spoken of the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic on mental health with suicides expected to jump by as much as 25 per cent.
Greg Hunt told reporters on Thursday coronavirus can have an “indirect impact” on mental health as he announced $500 million in additional funding.
"Coronavirus can have direct impacts, obviously. We've seen that around the world," he said.
"But the indirect impact can also be mental health."
Mr Hunt has studied modelling presented by Sydney University’s Brain and Mind Centre along with the Australian Medical Association.
He added he has spoken with Professor Patrick McGorry from University of Melbourne’s Centre for Youth Mental Health. Professor McGorry also contributed to the study.
“We are very focused on being ahead of the curve for mental health in the same way that we were ahead of the curve for physical health,” Mr Hunt said.
More people expected to die from suicide than COVID-19
The modelling predicts “a 25 per cent increase in suicides, and it is likely that about 30 per cent of those will be among young people”.
“We are facing a situation where between an extra 750 and 1500 more suicides may occur annually, in addition to the 3000 plus lives that are lost to suicide already every year,” the joint statement reads.
“Furthermore, this tragically higher rate is likely to persist for up to five years if the economic downturn lasts more than 12 months.”
It means more people are predicted to die from suicide than from coronavirus, which currently has a national toll of 97.
The AMA and Sydney University note “young people” make up most of Australia’s casual workforce, where may have lost jobs due to the pandemic.
“Many students and younger people working in retail and hospitality have lost their income, and are unable to continue their studies,” the statement reads.
“Some younger people may be experiencing cognitive and emotional development issues. These people are vulnerable to experiencing psychological, financial, and housing stress in the short and longer terms.”
Mr Hunt is expected to table the modelling to National Cabinet next week.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke on Tuesday about easing restrictions to mobilise Australia’s workforce, which would include casual workers.
The PM claims lockdown measures are costing $4 billion a week.
“That cost will continue so long as we have Australians in a position where they are unable to open their businesses and go back to the offices, children unable to go back to school, and the many restrictions in place,” he said.
“That is why the national cabinet has been working very effectively today as we move towards the decisions we need to take on Friday, that will impact on these restrictions in weeks and months that are ahead.”
It’s expected after Friday’s meeting with National Cabinet, Mr Morrison will announce a strategy to open bars, restaurants and cafes.
However, it’s up to states and territories when they will reopen.
The Northern Territory will begin easing its hospitality restrictions from May 15 with pubs and cafes opening their doors.
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