New lockdown sparks mental health concerns

Mental health experts are concerned about the effect of the new lockdown on residents.
Mental health experts are concerned about the effect of the new lockdown on residents.

Victoria's return to coronavirus lockdown has mental health experts worried that another six weeks of restrictions will have a profound impact.

About half of all Australians are more stressed because of the pandemic, according to the latest data from an Australian National University study into the effects of the crisis.

Almost as many are lonely or isolated as a result of lockdowns.

Mental health expert Mike Kyrios says Victoria's mental health care system will take a big hit during the second lockdown.

"Victoria needs to be bracing itself for the coming mental health crisis associated with COVID," he said.

"This will likely place the mental health care system in a precarious situation with very limited ability to mobilise resources in response to the increased incidence of mental illness arising from the COVID crisis.

"This, in turn, will leave the system unable to support those in greatest need."

A big feature of mental health advice during the pandemic has been the need for people to think as much about prevention as cure.

Professor Kyrios said Flinders University's Orama group, of which he is the director, has developed an online program to help people work on their mental health.

Likewise, Macquarie University senior research fellow Dr Carly Johnco talks of "cabin fever" during lockdown and ways to overcome the feelings of stress, worry or anxiety that can overwhelm people.

Dr Johnco talks of five strategies to help deal with cabin fever.

1. Keep a level head, think realistically about lockdown. Try to remember it's a finite period. It's also not personal, it's for public safety.

2. Take care of yourself - simple things like having a shower, eating well, dressing for the day. Maintain good hygiene.

3. Keep active - mentally and physically. Even in a confined space, there will be room for push ups and yoga poses. For mental stimulation, try meditation, games and puzzles.

4. Social connection - phone calls and video chats with family and friends.

5. Try to focus on something positive, either now or in the future. Listen to music, read, organise personal affairs, plan the next big holiday.

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Australian Associated Press