Aussie teens anxious, self-harming due to COVID-19
Young people have lost hope about what the future holds and feel their world has narrowed as a result of COVID, Australia's top mental health bureaucrat has warned.
Mental Health Commissioner Christine Morgan has told a Senate Estimates committee the problem is worst among those in their final years of school up to the age of 25.
"Their world has become quite narrow and their options have become quite narrow," she told the committee.
"Certainly for young people who are facing disruption with their education in the last couple of years of the schooling there has been a significant increase in psychological distress and anxiety amongst young people."
There had been incidences of increased self-harm with young people, presenting to requiring hospitalisation or presentations to emergency departments, she said.
Senate Estimates was told there had been a huge surge in people contacting the nation's leading mental health services as a result of COVID.
The surge was three times higher in Victoria which has been in a second lockdown for almost three months.
There was an 18 per cent increase in calls to Kids Helpline between September 7 and October 4, 2020 compared to the same time last year the committee was told.
In Victoria the jump in approaches to Kids helpline was up 61 per cent.
Calls to Lifeline increased by 18 per cent this year compared to last year but were up 40 per cent in Victoria.
There was an 8 per cent rise in calls to BeyondBlue outside Victoria but a 67 per cent surge in calls in Victoria.
The Government has massively increased spending on mental health and doubled the number of Medicare funded mental health services.
However, the Greens and Labor grilled the government on why it had been sitting on the results of three major inquiries into mental health including the Productivity Commission report on mental health reform which was delivered to the government in June.
Questions on the management of COVID-19 dominated the hearings.
South Australian Senator Rex Patrick accused the government of denying the public crucial information on how a COVID-19 vaccine will be rolled out including information on who will get it first.
He revealed he was sent 42 blank pages in response to a freedom of information request on how the vaccine rollout would proceed and was told it was secret because it was a matter of national security.
"This is how you're treating the Australian public, they're not allowed to know what a strategy is in relation to deployment of a vaccine, something that is fundamental to their health," he said.
Department of Health officials revealed Australia had reached only two vaccine supply deals with AstraZeneca (Oxford University) and CSL (University of Queensland).
"Equivalent health systems like Canada, the UK, the European Union and the US all have six deals each," Opposition health spokesman Chris Bowen said.
The committee heard the $70 million COVIDSafe app developed by the federal government had only been used to trace 17 unique cases that were not otherwise identified by manual contact tracing.
"This is $4 million dollars per unique contact," Mr Bowen said.
Senators probed whether a media release criticising the lack of transparency in how hundreds of millions of dollars in medical research funding was allocated was softened after intervention by Health Minister Greg Hunt's office.
Originally published as Aussie teens anxious, self-harming due to COVID-19