Mental Health & COVID-19 in Australia

Mental Health in 2021

Depression & Anxiety

Mental Health is all about wellness. 45% of Australians have experienced a mental health disorder at least once in their lifetime, with recent figures now showing 1 in 5 adults experiencing a mental illness every year. Adults aren’t the only people affected by mental health disorders. In the past 3 years, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen an alarming increase in mental health disorders – especially in teenagers and young adults aged between 15 and 24. The three most common mental health disorders?
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Substance abuse
Studies have shown that excessive internet use, and social media have been a large contributor to this increase. In Australia today the most common mental health illnesses are depression and anxiety. This has exacerbated by the COVID-19 epidemic – isolation playing a key factor. For many people, trying to take that first step and getting help is hard. There are many public and private support organisations that can help, starting with your own doctor.

Signs to look for when someone you know has a Mental Health Disorder

  • Long-lasting sadness or irritability.
  • Extremely high and low moods.
  • Excessive fear, worry, or anxiety.
  • Social withdrawal.
  • Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits.
  • Quiet or withdrawn.
  • Emotional Outbursts.

How Can Your Doctor Help?

If you, a family member, or someone you know exhibits one of these signs, the first stage is to book a long appointment with your doctor. There are assessments your doctor may use, like a DASS21 or a K10 assessment tool, which will help your doctor with the discussion.

After the initial appointment, a longer appointment is booked with the doctor with the purpose to prepare a mental health care plan or eating disorder plan (whichever is applicable), providing a structured approach to help support the patient.

Additionally, the mental health care plan enables doctors to initiate a specialist mental health team involving psychologists and dieticians (where applicable). The preparation of this plan enables the patient to access up to 20 psychologist visits subsidised by Medicare per calendar year. 

Mental Health Care Plan

After the initial appointment, a longer appointment is booked with the doctor with the purpose to prepare a mental health care plan or eating disorder plan (whichever is applicable), providing a structured approach to help support the patient. Additionally, the mental health care plan enables doctors to initiate a specialist mental health team involving psychologists and dieticians (where applicable).
mental health doctors

The preparation of this plan enables the patient to access up to 20 psychologist visits subsidised by Medicare per calendar year.

The doctor will usually authorise 6 visits at a time, with the doctor organising an appointment with the patient to review after the six visits.

mental health after COVID-19
Call us on (08) 6559 4788 to arrange a consultation

Types of Mental Health Disorders

  • Mood Disorders (such as depression and bipolar disorder)
  • Anxiety Disorders (such as OCD and panic disorder)
  • Personality Disorders
  • Psychotic Disorders (such as schizophrenia)
  • Eating Disorders (Binge Eating Disorder and Anorexia Nervosa)
  • Trauma-related Disorders (such as PTSD)
  • Substance Abuse Disorders

Mood Disorders

Disorders where a person’s emotional state is affected, where they experience long periods of extreme happiness, extreme sadness, or both. It is normal for their mood to change, depending on the situation they are experiencing and interferes with their ability to function.

Anxiety Disorders

A medical condition characterised by persistent excessive worrying. Symptoms include stress that is not proportional to the impact of the event and the inability to put aside worry and restlessness. These symptoms may be accompanied by difficulty concentrating, muscle tension and trouble sleeping.

Personality Disorders

Long term patterns of behaviour in which a person has a rigid and unhealthy pattern of thinking, functioning, and behaving. This type of disorder is further characterised by the person having trouble interacting and relating to other people.

Psychotic Disorders

These are characterised by a disconnect from reality. Symptoms can include;
  • hallucinations
  • delusions
  • talking incoherently
  • agitation

Eating Disorders

This is where a person has abnormal or disturbed eating habits. For some this can further extend to exercise, body weight and shape. Over a million Australians have eating disorders in different forms. Many people do not know they have an eating disorder or if they do, they go to extraordinary lengths to hide it.

Trauma-related Disorders

Emotional and behavioural problems that may result from childhood traumatic and stressful experience. These experiences can include;
  • exposure to physical or emotional violence or pain
  • abuse
  • neglect
  • family conflict

Substance Abuse Disorders

This occurs when a person uses alcohol or other substances – regularly building a dependence over time, causing health and behavioural issues.

Treatments available for Mental Health Disorders

The treatment of mental health disorders varies with the type of disorders but will almost involve psychiatric counselling.

Common treatments include:

Mental Health Disorder Treatment
Anxiety Counselling or medication
Binge Eating Disorder Psychotherapy
Bipolar Disorder Psychotherapy & medications
Clinical Depression Medication, talk therapy or both
Eating Disorder Medication, Nutritional Management and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) Talk therapy, medication, or both
Panic Disorder Medication and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Psychotherapy and medications
Schizophrenia Medications, psychotherapy, and speciality care services

Support Services

Kids Help Line
For ages 5 – 25
Available 24/7
P: 1800 551 800
W: https://kidshelpline.com.au/

Mental Health Emergency Response Line
Available 24/7
P: 1300 555 788 (metro)
W: https://www.healthywa.wa.gov.au/Articles/J_M/Mental-health-emergency

Lifeline
Crisis Support and Suicide prevention
Available 24/7
P: 13 11 14

Alcohol & Drug Support Line
Phone support for anyone seeking help for their own or another person’s alcohol or drug use.
P: 1800 198 024

Crisis Care
People in crisis needing urgent help, including children, domestic violence, and homelessness
P: 1800 199 008

COVID-19: Don't forget to wash your hands...

Chronic Disease Management

If a patient is eligible and has signs of a chronic disease such as arthritis, asthma, back pain, cancercardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes or mental health conditions. Depending on their prognosis they can now access the following over the phone:

Further Reading
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