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Australia Nearly one in 10 Victorians 'seriously considered suicide' during 2020 COVID lockdown, report finds

00:50  25 june  2021
00:50  25 june  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

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Nearly one in ten Victorians seriously considered suicide during the height of last year's coronavirus restrictions, a new survey has found.

Researchers surveyed 1,157 Victorians during September 2020, and found 33.4 per cent reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, and 26.3 per cent reported burnout symptoms.

The study, published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Psychiatric Research, found 9.5 per cent of respondents reported seriously considering suicide in the past 30 days.

It found 12.3 per cent had started or increased using substances to help deal with their emotions.

The research did not compare the indicators with pre-pandemic levels, but PhD candidate and report author Mark Czeisler said the findings were worrying.

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"These are concerningly high levels of adverse mental and behavioural health symptoms, absolutely," said the researcher, from Monash University's Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health.

Mr Czeisler said people experiencing those symptoms should get help.

"I think it's important to recognise that you aren't alone, and there is some level of this being a community experience," he said.

"Hopefully that will give some people confidence that they're not the only ones, and it's OK to be feeling this way and to reach out."

Ian Hickie from the University of Sydney's Brain and Mind Institute said the findings matched up with other research into mental health in Victoria during the pandemic.

"Sadly it does reflect the fact that although we were spared the worst of the health crisis in Australia, the social and economic impacts have been profound, and they're ongoing, they're not limited to the lockdown period," he said.

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Professor Hickie said that figure of 9.5 per cent of people having seriously considered suicide was "a high rate" and consistent with other research.

"Most of the evidence we have, particularly for young people, is that these rates were increasing pre-COVID," he said.

"They then went up markedly in the first COVID lockdown, and then subsequently in terms of emergency department presentations and really serious attempts at self-harm or suicide."

Carers, people with a disability amid worst affected

The study found young people, unpaid carers and people with a disability showed the highest rates of mental health problems.

Professor Hickie said young Australians had been most affected by poor mental health during the pandemic.

"Interestingly, young people also feel they're the group … governments have done the least to assist," he said.

He said the report highlighted the need for government policies to include economic, social and educational support, particularly for young people.

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"The psychological injury may well persist, even though the cause has gone away," he said.

Mr Czeisler said the study highlighted the need for mental health support services.

He said community awareness of mental health has increased during the pandemic, which was important.

"Having a concerted effort for evidence-based mental health promotion is something that would be a sustainable thing to think about building up so that there can be community resilience during a thing like a pandemic," he said.

The report found an increased prevlance of adverse mental health symptoms in people with diagnosed psychiatric or sleep conditions, and an association between poor mental health outcomes and people who reported sleeping fewer than six hours per night.

"Really trying to make sure you're maintaining a regular sleep schedule, reducing screen time and not always be paying attention and consuming information about the pandemic, that may help," Mr Czeisler said.

[Zendesk COVID form embed]

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