Deputy Chief Medical Officer for mental health, Ruth Vines has stated that pandemic fatigue is contributing to the stress Australians are experiencing during the pandemic.
“We have seen significant levels of distress and I’m sure people are now enduring what we call pandemic fatigue and feeling at times increasingly irritable and frustrated,” Vines said on ABC News Breakfast on Jan. 25.
She said that the last two years of the pandemic have been very difficult with elevated levels of psychological distress and demand on mental health services.
Lifeline, one of Australia’s leading suicide prevention services, recorded the highest volume of daily calls in the organisation’s 58-year history in Aug. 2021 during the peak of the Delta lockdowns.
However, she noted that the demand for mental health helplines have decreased compared to 2021 but demands are still higher than it was in 2019, prior to the pandemic.
Vines said besides maintaining mask-wearing and vaccinations, it was important for Australians to stay engaged with their lives.
“When you are feeling trapped and stuck and you can’t get there, to reach out for help, and there are lots of avenues for help now. The helplines have got increased capacity; the services there- new services- or not new now, but extra services in Sydney and Victoria that are being very well used,” she said on Sunrise.
Additionally, the federal government has made a $26.8 million investment in Yourtown’s Kids Helpline, a free, 24/7 telephone and webchat counselling support, for young people aged 5 to 25 years in May. 19, 2021 as well as investing $7.8 million in funding for perinatal helplines for expectant parents in Dec. 6, 2021.
Vines however celebrated school reopening, stating that returning to face-to-face learning is important for restoring normality in children’s lives.
“I think one of the things that is increasingly recognised around the globe is just how important it is to get that degree of normality back into young people’s lives, that sort of social engagement and social learning, and the exposure to all the things that happen in schools and school environments.”
It is an arguement supported by research with a study conducted by the University of Washington demonstrating the significant associations between school closures and poorer mental health outcomes.
Research conducted by the Royal Children’s Hospital and the University of Melbourne also indicated a decreased learning engagement for children that had to learn remotely with “almost half of the Australian student population risks having their learning severely compromised due to COVID-19-related school closures, either because they are an early year’s student or are experiencing adversity.”
Vines encouraged those stressed from pandemic fatigue to take time for themselves and stay socially connected for their mental health.
“It is 2022, we are now entering the third year of this so we’re into the sort of chronic stress rather than an acute stress,” Vines said.
She also warned against focusing on case numbers and the incessant media coverage of the pandemic.
“Its also important I think not to become too preoccupied with the numbers and with the almost incessant news and media information about the pandemic and about the situation across our states and territories,” she said.