Home / World News / Virus mental health hit to come: McGorry

Virus mental health hit to come: McGorry

It’s not just clinical cases of COVID-19 that will prove fatal for Australians – the pandemic’s mental health fallout is likely to bring a wave of further deaths.

Leading psychiatrist and former Australian of the Year Patrick McGorry says there’s been an upswing in mental health cases, and their severity, since the virus hit Australia in March.

“What we’re seeing, from what my colleagues tell me on the frontline, is about a 20 per cent increase in people presenting,” Prof McGorry told AAP.

“Often in quite acute and complex presentations now too, so there’s definitely an increase in severity.

“All the surveys of the population show a very substantial rise in distress, which we know translates into a surge for the need for care as well.”

Prof McGorry warned the nation’s first economic recession in three decades will be “the most powerful driver of suicide” in future months.

“The suicide increase is projected over the coming months and years, rather than immediately,” he told AAP.

“We have already seen a rise in self-harm and suicidal behaviour.

“It just … hasn’t actually translated into death rates yet.”

On World Suicide Prevention Day and RU OK? Day, Prof McGorry said it wasn’t too late to reduce the potentially-deadly impacts of coronavirus pressures.

He appealed to Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Daniel Andrews, premier of the hardest-hit coronavirus state Victoria, to grasp the enormity of the mental health system’s shortfalls.

Recently-announced $60 million and $32 million mental health packages from state and federal governments are akin to “firing a hose into a raging bushfire”, Prof McGorry, who’s also executive director of youth mental health group Orygen, said.

“They and the whole public are starting to understand this has been a very big sleeping giant and it’s been woken up by the pandemic.

“We’ve got to build the right infrastructure for the 21st century.”

That includes making Beyond Blue and other mental health support centres more digital-friendly to help stem the tide of the current surge, he said.

While some sufferers patiently wait or hesitate to seek help, the charity R U OK? is trying to arm family, friends and colleagues with the skills to have productive mental health conversations.

R U OK? ambassador Megan Barrow, who once suffered from agoraphobia, a fear of being in open or public places, said COVID-19 has forced more people to confront their mental health.

“Crises are an opportunity for learning,” she said.

“I hope that in five years’ time we don’t all forget it.”

Mr Morrison on Thursday told Australians there was hope beyond the coronavirus pandemic.

“There’s a lot of stress, and there’s a lot of pressure on Australians at the moment,” he wrote in an opinion piece published in The West Australian.

“There’s a truth in the saying, a burden shared is a burden halved.

“More than ever, we need conversations about how we’re doing. I want you to know that there is hope, and we will get to the other side of COVID-19.”

Lifeline 13 11 14

beyondblue 1300 22 4636

About brandsauthority

Check Also

Rublev stuns Tsitsipas to win in Hamburg

Andrey Rublev will arrive at the French Open having secured his third ATP title of …

%d bloggers like this: