While Victoria’s second COVID-19 wave appears to be coming to an end, experts at The Alfred’s Child and Youth Mental Health Service (CYMHS) warn that the mental health battle is only beginning.
CYMHS director Paul Denborough said while the number of virus cases are going down, mental health referrals stemming from isolating lockdown rules are likely to remain high for at least six months.
“Getting mentally well is not like flicking a switch, so just because restrictions are easing, doesn’t mean mental health issues will too,” Dr Denborough said.
“We’re getting many more calls than we used to… you could look at it as a shadow wave, so the number of virus cases are on the way down, but we expect the mental health wave to keep rising into 2021.”
“It’s been particularly challenging for young people because these are the years where they form a sense of identity through socialising.”
While the team has fielded upwards of 20 more calls a day than it normally would, Dr Denborough said he was enormously proud of all staff for keeping up with demand.
“It’s been a challenge, but we were able to adapt and during the restrictions, remaining open for those who needed support.
“It’s a testament to everyone here that we were not only able to continue operating though the restrictions, but also keep up with increased demand.”
K-K Weah is one example of a young person who found the lockdown tough.
“Having a bad day as someone who has mental health issue feels like you have no friends or anyone around you to support. It’s just sad,” she said.
“I’ve struggled with mental health issues since I was young but living in a one-bedroom apartment by myself during the lockdown got quite lonely.”
While she admits to having some rough days, the 21-year-old has been determined to continue the significant progress she’s made in her mental health journey this year with the support of services at Alfred Health’s Headspace team.
During the lockdown she kept herself busy with a number of projects and hobbies, including song writing, modelling, playing basketball and sewing her own outfits and had regular check-ins with the team at Headspace.
“I was hospitalised for about four months earlier this year, but since I’ve been back, I’ve tried to change my life habits and do things I really love like song writing, making my own outfits and lots of arts and crafts.
“Just because lockdown is over doesn’t mean mental health is finished, I think mental health issues stay with you until you find ways to deal with it and love yourself for who you are.”
If you’re struggling with mental health, help is available.
Alternatively, Alfred Health's Mental and Addiction Health Triage Team take calls from anyone living in the inner south-east Melbourne catchment.
If you are feeling like you may need extra support, you can contact the team on 1300 363 746 24-hours a day, seven days a week.