Youth mental health crisis 

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27 October 2020

Young people have lost hope about the future as a result of COVID, Australia’s top mental health official says.

Mental Health Commissioner Christine Morgan has told a Senate Estimates committee the problem is worst among those in their final years of school up to the age of 25, The Advertiser reports.

“Their world has become quite narrow and their options have become quite narrow,” she told the committee.

“Certainly, for young people who are facing disruption with their education in the last couple of years of the schooling there has been a significant increase in psychological distress and anxiety amongst young people.”

There had been incidences of increased self-harm with young people, presenting to requiring hospitalisation or presentations to emergency departments, she said.

Senate Estimates was told there had been a huge surge in people contacting the nation’s leading mental health services as a result of COVID, The Advertiser reports.

The surge was three times higher in Victoria which has been in a second lockdown for almost three months.

The mental health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are likely to be with us for many years, the Chief Psychiatrist of South Australia Dr John Brayley told the ANMF (SA Branch) earlier this month.

“Traditionally after a disaster occurs we would be planning for the mental health effects of the disaster for a two to four year period in terms of community recovery and seeking to prevent mental illness,’’ Dr Brayley said.

“The impacts on unemployment, underemployment and financial stress affect people’s mental health and what is being described nationally is a disproportionate impact on the mental health of younger people which we are seeing here in South Australia.’’

The grim reality during the pandemic is people under the age of 25 account for about half of a recent 10 per cent increase in mental health and drug and alcohol ED presentations across Adelaide, with the RAH experiencing a 20 per cent rise in all mental health and drug and alcohol presentations in recent months.

The Advertiser reports the Government has massively increased spending on mental health services across the country but has been grilled by the Greens and Labor on why it had been sitting on the results of three major inquiries into mental health, including the Productivity Commission report on mental health reform which was delivered to the Government in June.