COVID-19 is a mental health crisis too, writes Emma McBride, MP, Labor MEMBER FOR DOBELL.

We know that the circumstances of our lives have a profound and enduring impact on mental health and wellbeing.

MORE NEEDS TO BE DONE: The mental health of more than one million unemployed Australians is now at risk and should be taken as seriously as the job losses.

MORE NEEDS TO BE DONE: The mental health of more than one million unemployed Australians is now at risk and should be taken as seriously as the job losses.

  • COVID-19 Is A Mental Health Crisis Too, writes EMMA McBRIDE MP, MEMBER FOR DOBELL.

In just a few days in March, the closure of non-essential services led to hundreds of thousands of Australians losing their jobs.

Evening news bulletins showed heartbreaking images of business owners packing up shops, appearing alongside men and women waiting in never ending Centrelink queues.

It felt unreal, especially given how different things were only a few weeks earlier.

In the coming months, even as we prepare for the economy to "re- open", unemployment figures are predicted to rise sharply.

And while I know more than one million Australians suddenly out of jobs is a major blow to an already weakened economy, to me, one million Australians whose mental health is now at risk, is something much worse.

Unemployment puts mental health at risk. This is a statement shared almost universally by those who work in mental health. It's my experience as a specialist mental health pharmacist.

In my former role, as chief pharmacist at a regional hospital and Deputy Director of Pharmacy for Central Coast Local Health District (CCLHD), I saw what happens to at-risk people in crisis.

I saw otherwise healthy individuals deteriorate rapidly as a result of unemployment, housing stress and debt.

Experience tells you the health effects of unemployment are linked to the psychological consequences and the financial problems it brings, particularly debt.

We know that the circumstances of our lives have a profound and enduring impact on mental health and wellbeing. We know that the degree of socioeconomic disadvantage we experience directly increases the risk of mental health crisis.

We know that even working in an environment where you feel like you might lose your job can have a negative psychological impact. Add to this the fact that the risk of poor mental health is higher in regions where unemployment is widespread, such as regions impacted by a pandemic, and we now know that we not only have an unemployment crisis on our hands - we have a mental health crisis too.

Many people have found themselves out of work, some for the first time as retail, hospitality, tourism and service sectors collapse. As hundreds of thousands of Australians lose their jobs and businesses fold, lives are broken and the health of millions is at risk.

Years of cutbacks, staff cuts and closures have left our health and social welfare systems barely coping day-to-day; now buckling under the added pressure of the Coronavirus.

We need to do more.

  • Emma McBride MP is the Federal Member for Dobell, a pharmacist, former mental health worker and the Shadow Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Shadow Assistant Minister for Carers
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