The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has welcomed the Federal Government’s latest investment in mental health and suicide prevention research and reminded patients to talk to their GP if they have concerns about their mental health.
The Federal Government has today announced funding for research to improve mental healthcare and reduce suicide rates in Australia. A new grants round will go towards rapid research to improve the national mental health system response to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It follows the appointment of former chief psychiatrist of Victoria Dr Ruth Vine, as the country’s first deputy chief medical officer for mental health.
Reports have emerged in recent weeks concerning the significant impact the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting social restrictions are having on the mental health of Australians.
Lifeline reported that Good Friday was their busiest ever day and the RACGP has expressed concerns that the stresses caused by this pandemic have resulted in more people increasing their alcohol and other drug intake
All Australian jurisdictions have eased social restrictions according to the three step process for achieving a “COVIDSafe Australia”. However, there is no guarantee how rapidly each jurisdiction will move to further ease restrictions and there is always the prospect of governments being forced to revert to stricter measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon has welcomed the Federal Government’s funding measures and reminded Australians to take care of their wellbeing.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has been very disruptive to people’s lives and had an impact on many people’s mental health. The announcement today and the funding package of 14 May are positive steps forward; however, we are obviously going to need much more significant investment in mental health in coming months and beyond to manage the fall-out from this pandemic.
“Restrictions on the way we go about our day to day lives, the activities we can enjoy and how we can spend time with friends and family are being lifted across Australia. The extent of these changes depends on where you live but I think we have all noticed the difference it has made in our communities.
“However, we certainly aren’t out of the woods yet and this is no time for complacency when it comes to looking after your mental health.
“This COVID-19 pandemic has been a very trying experience for all of us and it has taken a real toll. I suspect many patients will be affected by what they have experienced over the last few months for some time, even if they are now able to undertake previously restricted activities such as visiting friends in their homes.
“So once again I remind patients that they can speak to their GP at any time about any mental health concerns they have.
“While we can be heartened that Australia has seen relatively few cases compared to other countries and has successfully managed to control the virus and ease some social restrictions, that doesn’t mean the impact this pandemic has had on your life has disappeared overnight.
“We need to fight the stigma that still persists when it comes to mental health. There is absolutely no shame in reaching out and getting help.
“Spread the message to your friends and family members if you are worried about them – help is there.
“The best place to start is often your usual GP. Your GP will discuss how your life is going and what is on your mind, we may provide you with a mental health plan and recommend a psychologist to consult with.
“No one patient is the same and there are many options available. Please remember that many people from all walks of life have come through our door seeking help and with care and support come out the other side.”
The RACGP President also reminded the nation’s healthcare workers to look after themselves.
“Several weeks ago the RACGP welcomed the Federal Government’s investment in greater mental health support for the nation’s hardworking healthcare workers.
“This is something that we had been advocating for and the Black Dog Institute’s online e-health mental health hub will make a real difference.
“Many healthcare workers have been through a lot during this pandemic. Some have experienced stress related to the increased chance of contracting the virus themselves, others have been abused by anxious and angry patients.
“They are on the frontline of COVID-19 doing their absolute best and if any healthcare worker has concerns about their mental health please don’t just be stoic about it. Reach out for help and advice, talk to your own GP and take advantage of the resources available.”
Numbers to call if you have concerns about your mental health:
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636