The emergence of the new #Omicron variant of #COVID-19 suggests there is no short-term solution to containing the spread of the #coronavirus.
As scientists around the world race to tweak vaccines to keep up with new strains of the #virus, Australia is also confronting a #mentalhealthcrisis exacerbated by the #pandemic.
Liberal MP and #psychologist Fiona Martin, who chaired the select committee on #mentalhealth and #suicideprevention, has warned that Australians will struggle for at least five years to recover from the damage #COVID-19 and associated lockdowns have done to our #mentalhealth. The committee found that the #mentalhealth of many Australians had become particularly fragile in recent years after facing natural disasters, including bushfires and floods, as well as the #pandemic.
The committee has urged the federal government to give #mentalhealth equal status to physical health and to implement its 44 recommendations.
The report released earlier this month recommends a review of #mentalhealth training for GPs and school wellbeing programs, such as chaplaincy, to provide #children with adequate protection. Master’s programs for #psychologists should also be expanded to ensure Australia was “armed and ready” to protect the #mentalhealth of those who were struggling.
The report found that too many people were not getting the care they needed, in the right place at the right time. Workforce shortages and inadequate training have created service gaps, while the evidence is clear that the key points for intervention are early in life and early in illness.
The committee found the #mentalhealthcrisis has amplified social disadvantage, increased service demand and presentations of #mentalillness while exposing the limitations of #mentalhealth, #suicideprevention and aftercare services.
A recent Productivity Commission inquiry found the annual cost of mental ill-health and #suicide was about $70 billion per year, based on 2018-19 estimates. Decisive action from government to improve services would help minimise future costs.
As the select committee noted, it is “past time” for a whole-of-government, whole-of-parliament approach to #mentalhealth and #suicideprevention that considers the broader impact of climate change and the #coronavirus #pandemic.
Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for #mentalhealthawarenessandsuicideprevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students and student-athletes.
Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is one of my passions. Us men need to not suffer in silence or drown our sorrows in alcohol, hang out at bars and strip joints, or get involved with drug use.
Having gone through a recent bout of #depression and #suicidalthoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space. #http://bit.ly/JamesMentalHealthArticle
Just as Australians dared to hope that we were putting the #pandemic behind us, NSW recorded the country’s first two cases of the #Omicron variant at the weekend. Another case has been confirmed at the Howard Springs quarantine facility in the Northern Territory and two other cases were confirmed in NSW on Monday night.
Infectious disease experts including Peter Collignon, a professor of microbiology at the Australian National University, have cautioned against panic over the #Omicron strain as new #COVID variants were always to be expected.
The federal government’s decision to quickly reintroduce two weeks of quarantine for recent arrivals from nine southern African countries of concern will give Australia time to assess whether any further changes to international border settings are needed. For now, a 72-hour #isolation period will remain in place for all other overseas arrivals to NSW and Victoria.
Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly says further decisions about Australia’s borders will be made as more information about the Omicron #COVID-19 variant comes to light.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has urged states and territories to stick to their reopening road maps until more is known about Omicron. The boss of travel agency Flight Centre Graham Turner has stressed the importance of basing any future changes on science and facts as opposed to emotion.
The Herald supports Premier Dominic Perrottet’s plan, for now, to forge ahead with reopening NSW. He remained confident on Monday that the state could continue to open safely with its high vaccination rates, saying: “We don’t just need to learn to live alongside #COVID-19, we need to learn to live alongside variants as well.”
Living with the virus will require a constant balancing act as governments weigh the cost of any further restrictions against associated costs to #mentalhealth and the economy. The health of the nation – mental, physical and economic – will require holding our nerve.