Weekly CEO Update from Mental Health Australia: It’s ‘a marathon, not a sprint’ and there will be a ‘long tail’

Person wearing red running in a stadium with flames shooting from poles in the background.

I am not a runner, let’s be completely honest. But I understand that if you are a sprinter or someone who runs marathons there is much preparation and training to do. My guess is that our Australian running athletes are busy training right now in preparation for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.

At Mental Health Australia we have been saying in submissions and public statements that we need to think about managing ourselves through the pandemic by approaching it as a marathon, not a sprint. 

We have been arguing that the task of living with this virus as a community and moving safely forward, means recognising that we have months to go until we can expect to return to where we were before the pandemic, or where we can be post-pandemic. And as the last week or so has reminded us, we find ourselves still living on high alert right across the country. 

We have also been underlining that the mental health impacts for Australians are likely to be significant and to go on for some time – that there will be a ‘long tail’ over the months and years ahead. We have seen particular surges of demand for mental health care.

Last week I worked from Melbourne and thus joined my family and all Victorians in lockdown. At home, my daughter, cat, and I settled into our bubble with the confidence of having plenty of toilet paper!

What I noticed about the neighbourhood was the quick, positive and compliant response. The streets empty of cars but teeming with mask-wearing people walking their dogs. The ‘pivot’ that people comfortably make in work and social commitments. The huge and patient queues for tests and vaccines. The sense of duty to protect community safety and health. The pain and frustration for those whose livelihoods are suddenly at serious risk. The exhaustion of it all. 

Such a challenging context.

Well done, Victoria! It’s as if the experience in 2020 has been the training for the marathon ahead or a reminder that this marathon is still underway. 

I then came back to Canberra on a flight where I was literally the only passenger on a huge plane (a story for another day) and went into home quarantine. My new go-to is the grocery delivery guy, and thanks to the friends who left AA batteries at the door for my dying computer mouse.

The community discourse seems different outside of Victoria. Less compassion. More blame. Noticeable fear and anxiety as the virus comes geographically close.

I think that watching a hot spot and providing support from the outside is also part of the marathon. We should seek to avoid making people feel discouraged or alienated or further complicate their exhaustion. We have seen particular surges of demand for mental health care during lockdowns —not just in Melbourne or Victoria, but across the country. This is not just hard in Victoria, it’s hard everywhere. And it’s especially hard when you are already struggling with mental ill-health. 

Today my godson Jack Pawsey wrote on social media “You got this Melbourne! Reach out if you need support, and stay safe”. 

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Have a good weekend, be it in lockdown, or in support of those who are.
 

Leanne Beagley
CEO

NEXT WEEK

On Monday I am chairing our first consultation meeting with stakeholders in relation to our development of the Advice to Governments – this time with the state peaks.

On Tuesday I have my regular meeting with Dr Ruth Vine, Deputy Chief Medical Officer and then a meeting with the team at the Centre for Mental Health Research at the Australian National University. Later we have our regular meeting with Mark Roddam and the mental health team at the Department of Health.

On Friday we will hold our next membership consultation about our Advice to Governments work and I will also be attending the Primary Care Reform Steering Committee.

 

Member Benefits, Jobs and Profiles

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Member Profiles

 

Lifeline Australia
Lifeline is Australia’s largest suicide prevention service with a vision of an Australia free of suicide. The Lifeline network includes 40 centres in metropolitan, rural and remote areas across the nation. 


ACT Mental Health Consumer Network
The ACT Mental Health Consumer Network is a consumer-led peak organisation representing the interests of mental health consumers in the ACT in policy and decision-making forums. The Network is committed to social justice and the inclusion of people with experience of mental illness.

 

Embrace Multicultural Mental Health News

Framework for Mental Health in Multicultural Australia Workshops
We are pleased to announce that we are holding new workshops on the Framework in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. These free and newly expanded workshops will offer participants an opportunity to learn more about the Framework and hear how services have applied the Framework to their workplace. You can register here for the Brisbane workshop on 8 JuneFor further enquiries, please contact multicultural@mhaustralia.org

Framework for Mental Health in Multicultural Australia Survey

We have over 1000 registered Embrace Framework users. We’re now looking for feedback to get a better understanding of how people find the Framework, how they’ve benefitted from it and what improvements can be made. Find our quick survey here.

COVID-19 vaccine information for multicultural audiences

The Department of Health’s stakeholder kit includes translated campaign key messages and links to campaign creative including videos, radio files, posters, social media content and images, and sample EDM/website content for multicultural audiences.

Embrace Australia logo (a rectangle with a light and dark purple cultural stripe pattern with "embrace" and stylised outline of the Australian continent in the lower right corner).

 

Mental Health News

Tech can help with lockdown blues

James Cook University researchers have found technology such as video conferencing is effective in helping people cope psychologically with COVID-19 restrictions, but face-to-face meetings also have an important part to play. Lifestyle changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic have led to alarming rises in anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, psychological distress and stress. Yet, research findings indicated that when people had technology-based social interaction more than was usual for them, they experienced more relatedness satisfaction.

Read more


Royal Commission Final Report Summary

The reforms envisioned by the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System mark the most significant development in mental health since the de-institutionalisation movement in the 1990s. To help build a shared vision of what the reformed system will look like, Mental Health Victoria has written a summary of the RC’s Final Report. 

Read more


RACGP urges change to laws discouraging GPs from seeking mental healthcare

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is calling for changes to mandatory reporting laws that discourage GPs from seeking healthcare. Over half of GPs surveyed for the RACGP’s 2020 Health of Nation report reported at least one negative impact to their wellbeing during the pandemic, with one in four reporting a deterioration in their mental health.

Read more


The mental health impact of COVID-19

As we continue to work our way through the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been considerable discussion in the media about the impact the virus is having on our mental health – and may have on our suicide rates. For some Australians, the restrictions governments have rightly put in place to combat COVID-19 have been a catalyst for relationships to be strengthened and reaffirmed, including developing new ways to work together. We have seen the renewal and importance of reaching out and being socially connected even while physically separated.

Read more


Three factors exacerbate suicide in bullied teens

James Cook University researchers have found three lifestyle factors that predispose bullied adolescents to plan or attempt suicide. Dr Yaqoot Fatima from James Cook University and the University of Queensland was part of a team that analysed data from a survey of more than 280,000 students aged 13-17 from 90 countries. She said suicide is the third leading cause of death among adolescents.

Read more

 

 

Reminders 

 Australia Post community grants to support mental health

Mental health is set to be the focus of Australia Post’s 2021 Community Grants program, recognising the important role local initiatives can play in connecting communities and improving mental health and wellbeing. Not-for-profit organisations can apply for up to $10,000 for projects that have a primary purpose of improving mental health and wellbeing, will help people meaningfully connect, and are locally led and delivered. 

2021 Bipolar Survey: Your Needs, Your Voice

Bipolar Australia has launched a survey to gain an understanding of the needs of people and organisations impacted by bipolar. All data collected is anonymous, and will help Bipolar Australia learn more about the needs of 1.5 million Australians directly impacted by bipolar disorder and advocate for positive change.

Apply to present at RRMH 2021

Presenter applications for the Australian Rural & Remote Mental Health Symposium close today. Present your case studies, research and ideas with an audience of like-minded professionals at the 2021 Australian Rural & Remote Mental Health Symposium, taking place from 3-5 November in Canberra. Authors or organisations are invited to submit a presentation of no more than 300 words.

Regional Data Hub consultation

The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications is inviting submissions to the public consultation process for the creation of the new Regional Data Hub. Feedback can be provided via a 20-minute survey or a submission responding to the consultation paper providing views through the Have Your Say page. Consultations close 5pm AEST Friday 2 July.

Erin Stewart
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