Why We Did It
We are the peak consumer run organisation in Victoria, therefore, we work closely with people with lived experience of mental health challenges. When COVID-19 started, we noticed a worrying increase in calls and emails from consumers, as well as an increase in the complexity of the issues they were experiencing.
Due to this, we designed and shared a survey with our members to find out exactly what was happening and how we could support them during this time. The survey ran for three weeks and included eighteen questions, including demographics, mental health experience pre and post COVID, helpful coping mechanisms and how VMIAC and other organisations can support consumers during this time.
We had 176 responses in total.
Most of the survey questions were open-ended, therefore, we received a lot of qualitative data that was analysed. Where multiple choice question were asked, we were able to show graphs adding to 100%. Where open-ended questions were asked, the totals may exceed 100% as respondents could state numerous answers. Some respondents skipped certain questions; therefore, totals may not add up to 176 for each.
What We Found
Overall, most respondents’ mental health was worse during COVID-19 compared to their prior situation. Females felt significantly worse than males, and referenced suicidal thoughts, attempts, or self-harm more. The highest risk age group were under 35 year-olds. Their mental health was a lot worse than any other age group; they didn’t see any positives during this time; and also referenced suicidal thoughts, attempts or self-harm the most.
More than half of all respondents had more than one mental health challenge at the time of the survey; the most common being anxiety and depression. Worryingly, 11% of respondents stated their mental health challenges pre-COVID-19 had worsened; and 4% referenced suicidal attempts, thoughts and/or self-harm.
Almost all (99%) respondents stated that effects of seclusion, including self-isolation or quarantine, social and physical distancing and not being able to go outside or exercise, negatively impacted their mental health the most. More than a third of respondents wanted additional mental health service support.
What We Will Do Now
We have employed two new Support Project Officers to support the increased and more complex work that has arisen from this pandemic. They will be working across several projects aimed to help support consumers.
We are also setting up more projects across VMIAC based on feedback from consumers in this survey. These include:
- The new ‘What If..’. mental health webinar series, giving our members community engagement outlets as well as more awareness about a myriad of topics!
- eCPR training
- Consumer short film series
- Regular ideas and events for your wellbeing
- More opportunities to have your say to the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System
- Consumer art therapy sessions
- Regular news, updates, and blogs from team VMIAC
- Continued advocacy support
We are also setting up new projects that will be announced soon!
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!