Victoria’s Lockdowns Impacting Youth Mental Health at Higher Rates

July 26, 2020 Updated: July 26, 2020

MELBOURNE—Hundreds of thousands of young people in Victoria have sought online mental health support since social distancing and stay-at-home orders came into place due to the CCP virus pandemic.

Since March over 300,000 young people in Victoria have visited popular youth mental health site ReachOut; this is a 25 percent increase compared to the same time last year.

The greater region of Victoria’s capital, Melbourne, is now going through a stricter second lockdown, and ReachOut CEO Ashley de Silva is concerned about the mental health toll the new restrictions are having on young Victorians.

“Going back into lockdown presents a range of challenges for young people in Victoria. Young people are telling us that they are worried and stressed about things like study, employment, and the future and we know that this can take a heavy toll on mental health,” de Silva said.

The Impact on Education Institutions

Greater Melbourne and Mitchell Shire’s six-week lockdown includes further measures like mandatory mask-wearing in public areas and most school pupils in years 8-10 returning to remote learning.

Year 11 and 12 students have returned to schooling in classrooms, as well as year 10 VCE (Victorian Certificate of Education) students and specialist school pupils.

The looming threat of the outbreak of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus, brings uncertainty to how long schools will be open.

Several schools in Victoria have experienced outbreaks with the biggest being Al-Taqwa College in Truganina; 183 confirmed CCP virus cases have been linked to the west Melbourne college.

Schools were closed during the first lockdown, with Premier Daniel Andrews keeping them closed longer than most other Australian states.

De Silva says the first lockdown can be seen as a good reference point to learn how to deal with the second.

“Over the past few months, young people have learned important things about their ability to cope with unforeseen challenges in their life,” she said.

“Now is a great time for young Victorians to reflect on what it was that helped keep them mentally strong during the first lockdown, or even on what they want to do differently this time around.”

Being proactive by keeping in touch with friends via video calls, and online exercises, are simple things that can help young people look after their mental health, according to de Silva.

Victoria’s stage three restrictions began on June 6. The state’s premier has not ruled out that the lockdown could extend beyond its current planned end on Aug. 19.

According to Victoria’s Minister for Youth, Ros Spence, young Victorians are almost twice as likely to be unemployed compared to the rest of the populous.

In May youth unemployment rose 0.4 points to 11.3 percent and is likely still climbing in line with nationwide increases.

ReachOut provides 24-hour self-help information and a peer-support program.