New data has exposed the horrific toll of repeated statewide lockdowns on the mental health of the youngest Victorians.
The Kids Helpline has reported a staggering 44 per cent increase in callouts from Victorian families in response to an immediate intent to suicide, since December last year.
Despite the harrowing toll Victoria’s lockdowns are taking on young people, in State Parliament today the Labor Government refused to release the report, only saying that Victoria’s COVID lockdowns were proportionate, despite no COVID cases in all of regional Victoria.
Shadow Minister for Mental Health Emma Kealy also pushed for the release of a secret report from the Victorian Agency for Health Information (VAHI).
The report details a 51 per cent increase in the number of teenagers rushed to hospital after self-harm or suicidal thoughts, compared to pre-pandemic levels.
“Teenage lives are on the line. This is too important not to act,” Ms Kealy said.
“The fourth lockdown plunged Victorians back into uncertainty, isolating young people from important support networks and preventing them from enjoying healthy social outlets like sport, exercise and music.
“Youth mental health services have reported a spike in calls as a result of the statewide lockdown declared on May 27, and past lockdowns sparked similar results.”
Data also shows significantly more young people were battling eating disorders at the start of this year than there were at the start of 2020.
In a statement this week, Kids Helpline said: “It is very clear that the pandemic is taking a toll on the lives of children and young people.”
Ms Kealy said with many young people employed casually in hospitality and retail, frequent strict, statewide lockdowns left many in constant worry that they may suddenly be cut off from family, friends or work.
“Why hasn’t the Victorian Government adopted a proportionate response to COVID outbreaks as seen in NSW to protect the mental health of Victoria’s young people and save lives?” Ms Kealy said.
“We now know just how much of a toll lockdown is taking on our kids and why it should be a last resort – not the first – but Labor continues to hide behind secret public health advice.
“Victorians deserve the truth. We deserve certainty. We deserve a government that’s prepared to do the work to get a plan in place, including good contact tracing, which means we can take a targeted response to outbreaks.
“Every day the Labor Government delays leaves young people at risk of declining mental health.”
Emma Kealy MP
Shadow Minister for Mental Health