STUDY: 1 in 10 Australians in Victoria considered suicide during lockdown

STUDY: 1 in 10 Australians in Victoria considered suicide during lockdown
Nenad Stojkovic, Creative Commons
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A study found that nearly one in 10 Australians in the state of Victoria seriously considered suicide during the height of the coronavirus pandemic restrictions last year.

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 also found that 12.3 per cent of respondents had started or increased using substances to cope with their emotions.

The study did not compare the findings with pre-pandemic levels, but PhD candidate and report author Mark Czeisler stated the findings were concerning.

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

Mr. Czeisler said those experiencing symptoms should seek help, “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.”

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

Ian Hickie from the University of Sydney's Brain and Mind Institute said the results of the study reflect 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.

Professor Hickie said that figure of 9.5 percent of people considering suicide was “a high rate” and consistent with other research carried out.

“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.”

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

Professor Hickie said that young Australians were most affected by the pandemic.

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

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

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

Mr. Czeisler said the study showcased the necessity of mental health support services for those struggling. He also noted that community awareness of mental health increased during the pandemic.

“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 also showed an increase of adverse mental health symptoms in those diagnosed with psychiatric or sleep conditions and a link between poor mental health outcomes and those who sleep 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.

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