The deadly side effect of Melbourne's fourth lockdown

·3-min read

Experts are bracing themselves for a spike in domestic violence and mental health crises, as Victoria endures its fourth lockdown in 14 months.

A seven-day lockdown began at 11.59pm on Thursday as Victorian health authorities race to contain the spread of a more infectious variant of the coronavirus linked to India

Monash University psychiatry professor Jayashri Kulkarni expects to see a spike in people, particularly women, seeking help for chronic conditions and domestic violence.

"The added stresses and strains of a lockdown can make something that's a bit fragile like a relationship, for example, really explode," she told AAP.

A shopper looks at the empty toilet paper shelves in a Melbourne supermarket on Friday, the first of at least seven days of lockdown. Source: Getty
A shopper looks at the empty toilet paper shelves in a Melbourne supermarket on Friday, the first of at least seven days of lockdown. Source: Getty

Following Melbourne's 112-day lockdown, there was a spike in new referrals for help with anxiety, depression, eating disorders, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress and domestic violence.

Prof Kulkarni is hopeful a shorter lockdown means "some of these explosive situations will not necessarily reach the peaks that they reached last year".

People should be kind and gentle with themselves, University of Melbourne research fellow and Australian Red Cross resilience expert Kate Brady urged.

"It's really important just to stop and say, 'I'm feeling overwhelmed because this is an overwhelming situation. I'm feeling stressed because this is an objectively stressful situation to be in'," she said.

Dr Brady also encouraged people to focus on what they could control and things they enjoyed, such as cooking, gardening or getting into a book they'd been meaning to read.

"What most of us were experiencing is that we were getting back to a sense of normality and things starting to settle down a bit," she said.

"When these things come about so quickly, they're a real reminder of how fragile that is and how much is out of our control."

Speaking to the ABC on Saturday, Patrick McGorry AO, a professor of Youth Mental Health at the University of Melbourne, said the latest lockdown will affect people differently. While some will take heart from their previous experience, others could suffer "what we call a second injury," he said.

"The calls to Beyond Blue surged yesterday. I think some people will feel okay if we can hang-in for another few days.

"If it's just a circuit breaker, that's one thing. If it goes on for weeks, I would be very worried about what will happen from a mental health point of view."

People in the state are only able to leave home to get food and supplies, give or receive care, get vaccinated, and for exercise or authorised work.

A 5km travel limit has been reimposed, and face masks are mandatory indoors and outdoors. 

On Saturday morning, Victoria recorded five new locally acquired Covid-19 cases and received results from a record number of tests.

with AAP

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636, Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.

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