Jobs and strong safety net key to maintaining mental health as pandemic continues: psychiatrists
16 May 2022
Psychiatrists are warning against complacency in thinking the pandemic and its mental health impacts are over, and say employment, a strong social safety net and targeted financial assistance are as important as clinical services in keeping people well.
The topic will be discussed at the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) annual Congress in Sydney from 16-19 May.
RANZCP President, Associate Professor Vinay Lakra, said seeking professional mental health support had become more normalised during the pandemic, but there were still gaps in services that keep people in good mental health.
'During the first two years of the pandemic many people who had never sought professional mental health care did so for the first time, and it’s wonderful to see people being more conscious and open about what was long a taboo topic', Associate Professor Lakra said.
'However clinical support is not the only answer. We need to see a more coordinated approach from leaders to providing the services and the information that help people to help themselves'.
Professor Steve Kisely from the University of Queensland will present a new analysis of research from 21 countries including Australia and New Zealand that shows suicide rates did not increase during the pandemic.
'Thankfully we haven’t seen an increase in suicide but we have certainly seen an increase in rates of anxiety and depression, especially in countries that haven’t had a strong public health response', Professor Kisely said.
'Contrary to some of the warnings, the evidence shows lockdowns and other public health measures have not have the effect on people’s mental health that some feared. You need a physically healthy population in order to have a mentally healthy population'.
But Professor Kisely’s research concludes an increase in suicide may take longer to appear, especially as financial supports are withdrawn and long-term neurocognitive effects occur.
'The evidence to date suggests financial support and practical aid may be the most effective way to minimise psychological distress. There is also a strong correlation in the data between full employment and lower suicide rates'.
For all other expert mental health information visit Your Health in Mind, the RANZCP’s consumer health information website.
ENQUIRIES: For media enquiries or to arrange an interview contact 0408 584 439.
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists is a membership organisation that prepares medical specialists in the field of psychiatry, supports and enhances clinical practice, advocates for people affected by mental illness and advises governments and other groups on mental health care. For information about our work, our members or our history, visit www.ranzcp.org.
In New Zealand: If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline NZ on 0800 543 354 or www.lifeline.org.nz or the Suicide Crisis Helpline on 0508 828 865 or www.lifeline.org.nz/suicide-prevention.
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