Documents reveal Minister’s negligence after loss of Victorian lives

Evidence has emerged that Victoria’s Mental Health Minister was told of Victorians taking their own lives due to “COVID-related stressors” – but failed to act.

A Ministerial briefing note obtained by the Liberals and Nationals under Freedom of Information (FOI) has revealed the Health Department warned Mental Health Minister James Merlino in early June 2021 that “lockdown measures” were having an “adverse impact on mental health”.

Coming as Victorians entered their fourth lockdown, the Department noted evidence of “two suicides following the recent lockdown in the context of loss of employment”.

It also cited data from the Coroners Court of Victoria that nearly 10 per cent of suicides in the first 12 months of the pandemic were linked to “policy decisions” related to COVID lockdowns and restrictions.

These disturbing reports come just days since Premier Daniel Andrews bragged that Victoria’s COVID response had been a “triumph” on a Labor-linked radio podcast.

The FOI also reveals the Minister was warned that:

  • There was a potential risk to the health of young Victorians as “elevated” numbers of youths presented to hospital ED’s due to intentional self-harm, suicidal ideation and mental health-related concerns,

  • Eating-disorder related ED presentations were “substantially above 2020 levels and significantly above 2019”, and;

  • Calls to crisis and support helpline services, including BeyondBlue, Lifeline and Kids Helpline, increased substantially through the pandemic (compared to 2019 data).

Despite calls from public health experts, backed by the Liberal Nationals, the Andrews Government has repeatedly refused to take mental health impacts into account in its COVID response.

Victoria entered its fourth lockdown on May 27, 2021, with just five reasons to leave home, a 9pm curfew, schools closed and kids banned from playgrounds. In October this year, Melbourne became the most locked down city in the world.

If you or anyone you know needs help, call Lifeline on 13 11 14, Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.

Comment attributable to Shadow Minister for Mental Health Emma Kealy

These revelations are a disturbing reflection of the gross negligence of a Premier and Minister who knew the impact Labor’s COVID response was having on Victorian lives, but chose not to act.

The Victorian families who lost loved ones in Daniel Andrews' lockdowns or those who are still struggling to live with the mental health impacts today will be sickened by the Premier bragging that Labor’s COVID response is a "triumph".

Victorians deserve to know that mental health support will be there, when they need it, but a shortage of workers is driving long delays for treatment.

Victorians can’t afford to wait for a change in Government to get the help they need.

The Liberals and Nationals will continue to push for immediate reforms that will unlock 4000 workers for the mental health sector so Victorians can recover and rebuild.