Yesterday James Merlino, Victorian Minister for Mental Health, announced $22 million more funding for mental health support to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. This announcement featured $13.3 million to fund 20 pop up community mental health services, with approximately 90 clinicians who will provide 93,000 hours of counselling and well-being checks.
This announcement is a small step in the right direction to address some of the problems with mental health services that were identified by the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System. Mental health advocates have welcomed the announcement of new funding.
But, Will It Make Any Difference To The Mental Health Effects Of The Pandemic?
Victoria’s mental state has deteriorated since the pandemic. Mental health experts warned that there would be an increase in suicide rates and a decline in mental health early in the pandemic. To reduce the impact of these problems, they called for more resources to treat and prevent health issues. They were right about worsening health.
However, Suicide Has Not Increased
Recent data compilations by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and Australian Bureau of Statistics show that anxiety and depression symptoms have increased in Australia during the pandemic but decreased to pre-pandemic levels. However, Victoria has been the most affected state by lockdowns. The prevalence of high levels of psychological distress is still much higher than elsewhere in Australia (27% versus 18%).
Services Mental Are Also In Demand
Data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare also indicate that there has been a significant increase in demand for mental healthcare services. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, Victorians have had a higher percentage of Medicare-funded health services. Telehealth services were introduced to facilitate some of this increase, which was not possible before.
Victorians are also calling Lifeline more frequently (up 37% between 2019 and 2020), Kids Helpline (up 27%), and Beyond Blue (up 65%).
What Mental Effect Will The Addition Of Services Have On My Life?
The increasing demand for mental support in Victoria will make the addition services more attractive to those who are currently on waiting lists or clinicians with limited resources. They won’t have an effect on the pandemic-related decline in health. There is no reason to expect a decrease in prevalence. In recent decades, Australia has seen significant increases in health services. However, this has not had a measurable effect on health.
Instead, the prevalence was stable over the 20-year period leading to the pandemic. This is not a unique situation in Australia. Similar results have been seen in high-income countries, where the health status of the population is closely monitored over many years. There has not been a reduction in the prevalence or an increase in treatment.
What Makes It Unlikely That More Services Will Have An Impact On The World?
A lack of quality is one reason why services have not seen a significant increase in their number. Most people suffering from depression and anxiety disorders in Australia don’t receive adequate treatment. Many times, the treatment isn’t evidence-based or too few sessions are required to prove effective.
The number of people who are suffering from milder mental illnesses receiving assistance has increased due to the availability of more funding. However, those with severe or recurring mental illness are the most vulnerable and are not receiving adequate care.
Services are not likely to have measurable effects because they don’t address. The risk factors that lead to a worsening mental health during a pandemic. Loneliness due to social isolation, financial stress and the need to balance. Childcare and home schooling while working remotely are all risk factors.
In my previous arguments, I argued that income and employment. Support are better than mental health services for addressing the mental impact of the pandemic. Although governments can take steps to reduce these risk factors. The main impact will likely be the lifting of lockdowns, which allows for social contact, schooling, and work to resume. These benefits are important motivators for achieving this goal and require greater vaccination coverage.