The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is once again reminding patients to consult with their GP if they have any concerns about their mental health.
The call comes as Melburnians grapple with the return of social restrictions with 12 suburbs subject to stage three Stay At Home Directions and the closure of nine public housing towers in response to an outbreak across multiple households.
Reports are emerging this afternoon that Victoria has recorded a 191 new cases of Covid-19 in the last 24 hours – the biggest single day of Victorian Covid-19 case numbers.
The RACGP has previously expressed concerns that the stresses caused by this pandemic have resulted in more people self-medicating by increasing their alcohol and other drug intake
Chair of RACGP Victoria Dr Cameron Loy said that it was understandable that many Victorian patients would be experiencing higher levels of stress and anxiety but that help was always available.
“This is a difficult time for people living in Victoria, particularly the ‘hot spot’ suburbs in Melbourne where we have seen the return of social restrictions.
“These measures are necessary to contain the COVID-19 virus but we must be very mindful of the impact it will be having on people’s mental health. Even people living outside of the ‘hot spot’ suburbs will be anxious about whether they too will be living under stage three restrictions soon and this uncertainty can really weigh people down.
“Those living in the public housing towers are not allowed to leave for exercise or shop for their own food and having police officers outside their dwellings could prove very confronting. The entire experience, especially for those from a culturally and linguistically diverse background who don’t feel confident speaking English, must be very difficult.
“We can only ask that the community remains patient in this challenging time. I can’t urge people strongly enough to please reach out to your GP for any mental health issues.
“Remember, video and telephone consultations with a GP are available. Our survey of general practice found that more than 99% of general practice clinics are offering these services.
“If you don’t feel confident using video technology that is okay, an old-fashioned telephone in your own home will do just fine. We also have interpreter services available with the Translation and Interpreting Service featuring a Doctor’s Priority Line.
“Please don’t put it off or delay seeking care, GPs are here to help. This advice isn’t just limited to Melburnians living in stage three restricted suburbs, it applies to all communities across Australia. If you are experiencing mental health concerns consult with your GP right away.”
Dr Loy also reminded the nation’s healthcare workers, including GPs and general practice staff, that looking after their own mental health must be a priority.
“Earlier this year the RACGP welcomed the Federal Government’s investment in greater mental health support for the nation’s healthcare workers through the Black Dog Institute’s online e-health mental health hub
“We advocated for those reforms because we knew that the COVID-19 pandemic had taken a toll on these workers.
“So once again I urge healthcare workers in Victoria and right across Australia to reach out if they are experiencing mental health issues. Talk to your GP, take advantage of the resources available and don’t put it off any longer.
“There is no shame in seeking help, this has been an incredibly stressful period and you deserve the best when it comes to your health and wellbeing.”
The RACGP is providing extra support for culturally and linguistically diverse Australians during the COVID-19 pandemic. A new RACGP resource has been launched to support GPs providing video and telephone consultations with patients who require an interpreter.
In addition to making an appointment with your GP, numbers to call if you have concerns about your mental health include:
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636