Governments must prioritise mental health message during COVID, say psychiatrists

01 September 2021

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) has described the impact of COVID restrictions, on the mental health and wellbeing of our communities as very concerning.

‘It’s not a secret that there are significant mental health impacts associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, especially due to the restrictions placed on the community, such as lockdowns and border closures’, added RANZCP President, Associate Professor Vinay Lakra.

‘Our mental health systems are seeing an unprecedented increase in people contacting helplines and mental health services, as outlined in data from Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

‘We’ve also heard about increase in presentations with self-harm and mental health distress to emergency departments across Australia, especially for children and young people.

‘There needs to be an immediate detailed assessment of the available data to help inform further urgent investment in the system to make the most impact.

‘We see daily briefings presented in each state which focus on the case numbers and do not necessarily consider the mental health impact of COVID-19 and subsequent restrictions.

‘The RANZCP is calling on all of our governments to involve mental health experts in every decision they make on this pandemic in terms of strategy as well as to help support and inform our communities.

‘This is a very real, very present “shadow pandemic” that will outlast the pandemic itself.

‘Initial responses to the pandemic provided hope, with the implementation of the COVID-19 telehealth MBS item numbers and the roll out of HeadtoHealth in Victoria, and soon to be in New South Wales, but more still needs to be done.

‘Governments are so focused on protecting our physical health, but it is critical to simultaneously protect our mental health.

‘Mental health should be at the forefront of everyone’s mind as they make decisions on restrictions, lockdowns, border closures, even the language used in the daily briefings.

‘Any future modelling for COVID-safe planning must include the mental health impact.

‘Mental health must matter, and it has to matter now.’

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 (0)3 9640 0646 or +61 437 315 911, or email