16 Dec 2020
The National Mental Health Commission (The Commission) today launched #MakingTime – a national conversation championed by people living with mental illness, and those who care for them, to support each other’s mental health and wellbeing over summer, after a year of unprecedented challenges.
#MakingTime calls on those living with mental illness, those who care for them, and those experiencing mental distress to share their first-hand stories on what has helped them on their toughest days, and how they will be making time to care for their mental health over summer and the festive season
National Mental Health Commission CEO, Ms Christine Morgan, said Australians living with mental illness and their carers had been significantly affected by the impacts of drought, bushfires, floods, and the global coronavirus pandemic. They have faced challenges to their normal routines and supports for their lives. In some cases they have experienced an increase to the severity of their illness and have needed to seek additional support and treatment.
“In a year where we have all been challenged in different ways, those living with mental ill health or impacted by trauma can not only help others in a similar situation understand how to prioritise their mental health and wellbeing but can help them appreciate the need to make time for the things that help us respond to daily challenges,” said Ms Morgan.
“MakingTime has been developed in collaboration with people with a lived experience of mental ill health, their carers, and with our country’s leading mental health organisations. There is no question that this past year has taken, and continues to take, a toll on our mental health and wellbeing. We can all learn some helpful and insightful lessons from fellow Australians about how to make time for our mental health and wellbeing.”
Statistics reveal that demand on mental health services have continued to increase.
- COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to a marked increase in presentations of people with either new or relapsing eating disorders. Increased referrals to services have been estimated in the range of 25% to up to 50% nationally.
- In the period between April and October 2020:
- The SANE Helpline service increased by 78%. The SANE Helpline provides counselling, support and information for adults (aged 18 and above) affected by complex mental health issues (e.g. schizophrenia, personality disorder, OCD, Bipolar Disorder).
- Peer support forums (saneforums.org) also increased 41% over the same period. The Forums provide 24/7 peer to peer support for people living with complex mental health issues, their family, friends and carers.
- Since 16 March, 10 million Medicare mental health services were delivered nationally, and 3.3 million of these services were delivered by telehealth.
In the four weeks to 6 December 2020, compared to the same period in 2019:
- the average number of users of the Head to Health website was 374% higher (4,377 average users per day)
- the average number of users of the ReachOut website increased by 12% (8,905 average users per day)
- the number of Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) subsidised mental health services was 16% higher (1,164,28 services delivered)
- the number of contacts with helplines (Lifeline, Kids Helpline and Beyond Blue) together has increased by 25% (114,336 answered contacts in the four-week period)
According to the National Mental Health Commission, the prevalence of mental illness and psychological distress has continued to increase during 2020; confirmed by an increased uptake of mental health services and surveys conducted throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Evidence shows there have been particularly high levels of mental distress and overall fatigue for people living in Victoriai, because of the tighter and longer duration of restrictions in that State. That’s why the Commission is focused on providing a positive platform for people with lived experience and their carers, as well as all Australians experiencing mental distress, to share advice and strategies with each other to help them cope, even during their toughest days.
Demi Kotsoris, 26 from Melbourne, refers to herself as an extrovert and has shared how she was among those who struggled with isolation and loneliness, but found ways to meet the challenge of the lockdown, head-on.
“I had actually left Australia to follow my dream and travel to South America when COVID hit and had to come back home immediately where I quarantined in my mum’s bedroom,” said Demi. “I felt lost, confused and stressed about where my life was heading and my career, so I decided to use myMillennial Crisis podcast to interview young people from across Australia about how they are managing COVID and expanded that to virtual events where young people could hang out, to chat about and combat our struggles together. I think I was genuinely shocked to find so many young people feeling the way I did, but also relieved I wasn’t alone – I was able to create a community through conversation and I know it has helped me through some of my toughest days.”
Butch Young, from Moss Vale in the New South Wales southern highlands, lives with Schizophrenia and shares his experience over the past year and the impact of responding as a volunteer to last summer’s bushfires.
“I didn’t realise the scale of it (the bushfires) until a couple of days in. When I got home, I was exhausted and hadn’t slept properly in weeks and told the kids to stay away from me. I wasn’t myself; I could tell and so could my family - I knew I had to make a conscious effort to look after my headspace.”
That’s when Butch, a non-drinker, dedicated time to building a treehouse bar in the backyard – as one of the many things he did to look after himself.
“It was the best thing. It gave me something to focus on, a goal, as well as time for myself. Now it is built I can go in there relax and reflect and I can share it with others – it feels safe. Time with my pets and a nice family dinner are also things I know fill my cup up when times get tough. Like me, anyone living with mental ill health and even those who support us, need to make time for what matters to us. Even better, we need to talk about our positive experiences to help all Australians prioritise taking care of their mental health and wellbeing each day over this summer,” added Butch.
Visit the dedicated website to get involved or see how Australians are #MakingTime for their mental health this summer: www.nmhcmakingtime.com.au
National FREE 24/7 Crisis Services
For general mental health information https://headtohealth.gov.au/