Almost 20,000 Victorian kids left high and dry by Labor’s delayed mental health support

The nation’s largest mental health worker recruitment drive is needed to arrest “heightened levels of anxiety and mood distress” in young Victorians, as data today reveals an alarming spike in students diagnosed with learning disabilities.

Almost 20,000 additional young Victorians were registered with learning difficulties, including ADHD or depression, during the time of Labor’s six lockdowns in 2020 and 2021.

The 23 per cent jump was the biggest spike in the nation and compares to a five per cent rise in Queensland and NSW.

Shadow Minister for Mental Health Emma Kealy said although children have returned to the classroom, there’s growing evidence the mental health of young Victorians continues to suffer.

“Mental health experts are warning the youngest Victorians are bearing the biggest burden of Labor’s six lockdowns, yet the Andrews Government has cruelly delayed access to crucial programs that may help them recover” Ms Kealy said.

“Extra mental health practitioners won’t be eligible to work as counsellors in schools until at least September next year, while the school mental health fund won’t kick in until 2024.

Other programs are still a decade away.

“Every day young Victorians wait for help is another day of suffering that means the problems will get worse.

“Remember this November that only a change in government will establish the nation’s largest recruitment drive with more scholarships on offer, extra training places opened for psychologists and psychiatrists and relocation incentives to join the workforce, sooner.”

Data released to Senate Estimates by the federal Education Department showed one in 10 Victorian public or Catholic school kids is registered with a cognitive disability, like ADHD, or ‘social’ disability, like depression or autism.

According to one clinical psychologist, long isolation of lockdown means Victorian children have missed out on the developmental benefits that time in the classroom – and away from the familial support network – offers for “wellbeing and maturation”.