The mental health benefits of vaccination
by Deputy Chief Medical Officer for Mental Health, Dr Ruth Vine.
We often talk about the protection getting vaccinated against COVID-19 provides in relation to our physical health.
But what we don’t talk about enough are the significant mental health benefits that can flow from getting vaccinated against the virus.
Good mental health is associated with feeling confident about who you are and what you are doing, knowing that you have a role in helping your family and community to get through this difficult time.
Just knowing that you have protected yourself, physically, from the virus through vaccination can improve your mental health. It’s knowing you are very unlikely to suffer serious illness, or be hospitalised, or even die if you were to contract the virus.
Knowing that your friends and family are similarly protected through vaccination can also improve your mental health.
We know too many families who have been impacted by someone close to them getting sick with COVID-19, with all the worry and fear of a bad outcome and need for hospitalisation. And some of those who have got sick with COVID-19 continue to experience fatigue and lowered mood.
We all want to be able to pack our bags and go on holidays again. Celebrate birthdays with family and friends. Or maybe get in the car and drive somewhere for a bushwalk.
Getting vaccinated and knowing you are doing your bit to help us all get beyond the lockdowns, so we can enjoy these things again, can make you feel better.
For those living in areas not already significantly impacted by local outbreaks and restrictions, getting vaccinated now means you have the peace of mind that should COVID-19 spread to your community, you are already protected.
We all want to be able to make plans for the future and see them through. Getting vaccinated can give you a sense of agency – and by that, I mean it can give you a greater sense of control over your future.
As the rate of vaccination increases across our community, we will be able to plan with more certainty – whether that be at home, school, work or a sporting club.
None of these benefits understates the very significant detrimental impacts the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the mental health of a great number of Australians – in particular, those living through lockdowns.
People have lost jobs. People are feeling socially isolated and weary. Parents are often juggling work and home-schooling duties in close quarters. And there’s been uncertainty about when the next lockdown might occur – so people have had to put much of their life on hold.
Before the pandemic struck, none of us imagined we’d be living through the lockdowns many of us are – and so one of my key messages is: it’s okay to be feeling worried and distressed. The important thing is to stay connected to family and friends and if you are feeling stuck, reach out for help.
COVID-19 is also having lasting effects on many of those who contract it – and it’s believed up to one in 10 suffer what has become known as “long COVID”. The effects of this syndrome can include “brain fog”, where forming clear thoughts is difficult. It can also lead to depression.
I encourage every eligible person who is not yet vaccinated to get the jab for the physical protection it will offer against the serious effects of COVID-19.
The mental health benefits vaccination can provide are very clear. You feel safer, those around you feel safer, and you are part of the effort to get us all out and moving around again.
Getting the jab could be one of the most important things you can do for your longer-term mental health.