For our free coronavirus pandemic coverage, learn more here.
Victoria’s Chief Psychiatrist says he believes Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton has struck the right balance between protecting people’s mental health and preventing COVID-19 transmissions through lockdowns, despite rising concerns about the impact of the pandemic response on young people.
The Royal Children’s Hospital has reported a significant spike in young people presenting to the emergency department with severe mental health difficulties over the past year.
Children attending the hospital for anxiety, depression, self-harm, suicidal behaviours and eating disorders had increased by between 30 and 80 per cent on the previous year, according to the hospital’s director of mental health, Ric Haslam, who encouraged parents to also “check in on themselves”.
Dr Coventry and Dr Haslam appeared at the state government’s COVID-19 press conference on Thursday to address rising concerns about the mental health effects of the state’s extended lockdown on Victorians, who have endured more than 230 days under stay-at-home orders.
The Chief Psychiatrist said while the pandemic had taken a toll on people, humans by their very nature were resilient and would, largely, be able to cope.
However, he encouraged parents and carers to reach out to their children, to have frank conversations about the pandemic and the lockdown, and truthfully answer their questions.
“[The situation] impacts our own sense of well-being, and anxiety, stress level, we all feel, to some extent, confused and very uncertain about the future. I want to emphasise that this is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation that we are currently experiencing,” Dr Coventry said.
“The good news I want to share is that, fortunately, most of us will be able to cope with this challenge. We will use our normal resources, our strengths, our sense of resilience in the support that we have around us from our family, loved ones and friends. However, we also need to acknowledge that some people will really struggle.”
When asked if the state had struck the right balance between protecting mental health and minimising transmission of COVID-19, he said he was “comfortable” with the level of consideration Professor Sutton had given to people’s mental well-being when advising the government on lockdowns.
Dr Neil Coventry said he believed the Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton (pictured) had struck the right balance between saving lives and protecting people’s mental health. Credit:Eddie Jim
“I would hate to think children’s mental health is suffering because their parents who need to care for them are in hospital or, even worse, die,” Dr Coventry said.
“That’s a terrible tragedy for any family. These are always very difficult decisions to be weighing up, but we need to be seeing how connected our physical health and our mental well-being is.”
Dr Haslam said there was a “really notable” rise in anxiety and depression in children and adolescents, both in Victoria, Australia and internationally.
But he said it remained unclear how much of the increase could be directly attributed to the lockdown.
The Royal Children’s Hospital staff have experienced an increase in children and adolescents presenting with aggression, both verbal and physical, particularly linked to children with developmental difficulties, such as autism spectrum disorders.
“There’s a sort of a tidal increase in demoralisation and anxiety, of worry, of irritability and frustration,” he said.
“All these things I think we can all sort of experience and recognise. We also have to remember that these are very common conditions, particularly in adolescence.”
Dr Coventry said there had been a trend, pre-dating the pandemic, of a rise in mental health problems among children.
If you or anyone you know needs support call Lifeline on 131 114, Beyond Blue’s coronavirus mental wellbeing support service on 1800 512 348, or Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800.
Stay across the most crucial developments related to the pandemic with the Coronavirus Update. Sign up for the weekly newsletter.
Most Viewed in Politics
From our partners
Source: Read Full Article