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Australia’s Covid-19 recovery faces mental health risks

Australia’s top mental health official has acknowledged the country faces an uphill battle to conquer “isolation, loneliness and anxiety” caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Ruth Vine, Australia’s newly appointed deputy chief medical officer for mental health, said there was a need to focus on improving how such services are integrated and on “making the mental health system easier to navigate”.

She said the Australian government recognised there was a need to improve how
the psychological effects of the coronavirus pandemic were monitored and had committed an extra A$500m (US$333m) to mental health services for the pandemic.

“For some Australians, the restrictions governments have rightly put in place to combat Covid-19 have been a catalyst for relationships to be strengthened and reaffirmed, including developing new ways to work together,” Dr Vine wrote on Saturday. “We have seen the renewal and importance of reaching out and being socially connected even while physically separated.”

However, she said many people were negatively affected by the pandemic and its associated lockdown. “While physical distancing is helping to prevent people from contracting the coronavirus, it has also created other problems, including isolation, loneliness and anxiety.”

“As we continue to work our way through the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been considerable discussion in the media about the impact the virus is having on our mental health – and may have on our suicide rates,” Dr Vine wrote in an article posted on the health department website at the weekend.

“There is a significant role for the health system in providing care and support to assist recovery,” she wrote.

See also Grief, lockdown and coronavirus: a looming mental health crisis

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