Mental health warning as lockdowns lift, new national strategy for children launched
Australia’s Mental Health Commission chief executive has warned against the “euphoria” of reopening, cautioning that there is likely to be anxiety, especially among children, as states leave lockdown.
Christine Morgan said Australia needed to “proceed with caution”.
“There has been a certain form of almost a sense of security (for some) in being able to stay at home in a safe environment,” she said.
“We need to proceed with caution and realise we will probably have mixed emotions about re-engaging.”
Millions of NSW residents were released from lockdown on Monday, with restrictions set to ease in the ACT on Friday and in coming weeks for Victoria.
Ms Morgan’s comments come as a world-first national strategy to improve children’s mental health and wellbeing is launched, with the government looking to provide “additional hope” for children as Australia looks beyond Covid-19.
The National Children’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy provides a road map to ensure children aged 0-12 have all the opportunities for growth and development possible.
States and territories will partner with the federal government to create new Head-to-Health mental health and wellbeing centres for children.
In addition, the government will invest $42.3m to educate parents and help them identify “problem behaviours” early.
More than $26m will be spent to ensure Kids Helpline can meet the increased demand for services.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said the government wanted to provide “legitimate hope” that there was a light at the end of the tunnel.
He said the goal was “very simple”.
“To provide better care, better treatment, better pathways, and additional hope for parents and for children,” he said.
“A year ago, we heard understandable concerns that there would be a terrible rise in the rate of people taking their own lives.
“Fortunately, because of the collective action of Australians in taking care of each other … we actually saw a decrease in the rate (of suicide) – an over 5 per cent decrease.”
Mr Hunt said while Australia had avoided the mass casualties of the pandemic other countries had experienced, and dodged the rise in suicides predicted, the scars still “run deep”.
Mr Hunt said there were three parts of the strategy.
“There is the challenge, which is recognising that more than 50 per cent of adult-related mental health illnesses begin before a person turns 14,” Mr Hunt said.
“At the same time, less than 50 per cent of children’s mental illnesses are properly treated. And, in large part, that has been because many have thought that what may be genuine anxiety or depression is simply a bad day. It’s not.
“So then how do we do it (address these challenges)? By moving to a wellbeing focus.
“Then it is backed up by funding.”
Ms Morgan said the strategy was about taking a “truly preventive approach”.
“We must understand and support the environments in which (children) live and are raised,” she said.
“We also need to look at those community settings … education.
“We want to look at this as a wellbeing continuum.”
Originally published as Mental health warning as lockdowns lift, new national strategy for children launched
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