Psychiatrists discuss COVID-19 and mental health at annual conference

01 December 2020

The COVID-19 global pandemic and its impacts on the country’s mental health has taken centre stage on day two of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists’ (RANZCP) annual conference, held in Napier this year.

Amid the global pandemic, New Zealand experienced some of the strictest lockdown restrictions, in the world, which included reduced social contact, limited recreation and travel ability, not to mention job loss and financial instability.

RANZCP President, Associate Professor John Allan explains the mental health impacts that these constraints have had, and will have, on the country, its communities and our whānau.

‘The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown our world upside down and forced us to come face-to-face with some harsh realities over the past year,’ added Associate Professor Allan.

‘It is important now, to focus on your mental health and wellbeing, to build something into your day-to-day routine that allows you time to stop, reflect and take care of yourself.

‘What we have experienced this past year is unprecedented and we need to give our minds the time and support it needs to process what has happened and how to feel about it.

‘We must also be mindful of our friends and whānau, their mental health and wellbeing and take the time to check in on them.

‘Make sure you do something that you enjoy regularly, allow yourself to relax or reflect on the year that has been, reach out to those you may have lost contact with during the year and re-establish that relationship.

‘While many people will have coped well with the social and mental impacts of lockdown, it is ok to be feeling or experiencing anxiety or distress.

‘The key takeaway is to make sure that you pay attention to those feelings and seek the support you need to be able to recognise and address them to prevent them escalating.

‘This year has presented us with extraordinary, and never before experienced, challenges within every aspect of our lives, and we’ve had to learn an entirely new way of living which has had and will have significant mental health impacts on us as a country, community and individual.

‘The economic and social impacts of the pandemic are likely to be long-lasting and far-reaching, and mental health consequences, including a possible increase in suicides, are expected to be present for longer and peak later than the actual pandemic.

‘So remember to keep an eye on your own mental health and wellbeing, as well as that of your friends, co-workers and whanau, take care of each other and remember to stop and take a breath when you need.’

The Mental Health Care and the Global Pandemic session featured presentations from:

  • The insider's guide to the global pandemic and what this means for NZ in the future
    Professor Michael Baker, epidemiologist
  • The effects of the COVID-19 lockdown on the wellbeing on New Zealanders 
    Dr Susanna Every-Palmer, psychiatrist
  • Leading the RANZCP through a time of crisis 
    Associate Professor John Allan, psychiatrists and RANZCP President

For more information about the conference, visit the RANZCP 2020 NZ Conference website.

For all other expert mental health information, visit Your Health in Mind, the RANZCP’s consumer health information website.

ENQUIRIES: For more information, or to arrange an interview call Sarah Carr on +61 437 315 911, or email