Content warning: This report contains information about experiences that you may find distressing, including suicide and self-harm. If you are triggered by anything in this report, please call our new service, CHECK-IN, immediately on 1800 845 009.
Why We Did Another Survey
In March 2020 we conducted a survey to identify the impact of COVID-19 on our members and others experiencing mental distress. The results of that survey identified a number of concerns, one of which was a significant increases in mental distress including rates of suicidal ideation. We were able to raise these issues with other services and the Department of Health and Human Services, which advised us that our initial COVID-19 survey was a major contributor to understanding the pandemic’s effect on mental and emotional distress across Victoria.
After the second wave of COVID-19 hit and Stage 4 restrictions were implemented, we knew this would have an impact on people living with mental or emotional distress. Therefore, to better understand how they have been affected, how it differs from the first wave and what services are needed to sufficiently support them, we designed Survey #2.
In total, we had 226 responses from different genders, ages, cultural and linguistic backgrounds, and regions across the state.
What We Found
In our first survey, 75% of respondents reported that their mental health was worse in the first wave of the pandemic compared to before. In this second survey, 75% of respondents felt their mental health was even worse in the second wave of the pandemic compared to the first.
A higher percentage of men, 80%, compared to 73% of women, identified that their mental health was worse in the second wave than the first wave. This higher percentage does not necessarily represent that, overall, men’s mental health was worse than women’s. According to our first survey women reported higher levels of mental distress since COVID-19 began, as men did not report feeling their mental health was as negatively affected during the first wave of COVID-19, according to our first survey.
Understanding that 79% of women felt their mental health was worse in the first wave, with 73% feeling even worse during the second wave, women would still appear to be more adversely affected by the pandemic.
Lacking motivation and/or tiredness were by far the most common feelings during the second wave. Since the first wave of COVID-19, lacking motivation and/or tiredness had increased by 28%, whilst anxiety and/or panic decreased by 24%. However, it is important to note that our first survey did not ask respondents to choose specific emotions they felt during the first wave; these respondents noted lacking motivation and/or tiredness and anxiety, unprompted by us.
The most concerning findings from this second survey, however, were regarding respondents’ behaviour.
Half of all respondents experienced either suicidal thoughts or attempts during the second wave. A fifth of respondents experienced self-harm, whilst over 70% have used alcohol or drugs inappropriately.
In addition, over three-quarters of respondents have experienced anger, over half are withdrawn, and 20% have experienced violence towards themselves or inflicted it upon others.
These statistics document harmful and destructive behaviours to self and potentially to others, which is extremely alarming. They raise the need to investigate more effective ways to understand and support those people experiencing them, as well as what is required to eradicate these behaviours altogether.
What We Will Do Now
As a result of the findings from our first survey the Hon Martin Foley, Minister for Mental Health at the time, provided funding to VMIAC to establish a peer support program. The focus of the program is for people with lived experience, of mental or emotional distress, who are ﬁnding the current pandemic situation difﬁcult and would beneﬁt from a peer-based response. This service is now in operation and is part of the programs offered by VMIAC.
CHECK-IN works from a strengths-based approach and uses a structured model. Its aim is to help people with lived experience to improve their ability to cope with issues related to COVID-19 and more easily manage distress or anxiety.
Please note that CHECK-IN is not a crisis service. If you, or someone you know is in crisis, please call Lifeline or Beyond Blue.
To participate in CHECK-IN, please call 1800 845 009, or click here to find out more.
As well as this:
- We will be hosting more interactive social activities
- eCPR training
- Consumer short film series
- Regular ideas and events for your wellbeing
- Regular news, updates, and blogs from team VMIAC
- Continued advocacy support
We have shared our findings with the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as other organisations across Australia, to spread awareness around the issues and bring the consumer voice to the forefront! We will continue to advocate for consumer rights and we won’t stop until the mental health system is where it needs to be!