Australian Suicide Rates Could Spike By 25 Percent Due To COVID-19

Australian experts are calling for urgent action on mental health challenges related to coronavirus to stop a predicted 25 percent increase in suicides.

The government is expected to announce a raft of healthcare funding on Friday, and Professor Ian Hickie from the University of Sydney is urging mental health to be considered.

Preliminary modelling by the Brain and Mind Centre (BAMC) has found that there may be a 25 percent rise in suicides due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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According to Hickie, a co-director of health and policy at the BAMC, the equates to an extra 750 to 1500 suicides annually on top the 3000 lives already lost each year.

“The impacts of unemployment will be greatest among the young, those who live in rural and regional Australia, and those areas hardest hit by job losses will not recover quickly,” he said.

Experts are calling on the government for urgent action for mental health. Photo: Getty Images

The modelling also suggests that 30 percent of lives lost will be young people between the ages of 15 and 25.

The call on the government to act has also been backed by the Australian Medical Association president Dr Tony Bartone and Orygen lead Professor Patrick McGorry.

Hickie said Australia’s mental health system, which is already “poorly designed and seriously under-resourced”, must be urgently equipped to treat an influx in demand for services as social distancing rules are eased.

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Health Minister Greg Hunt told ABC’s 7.30 the federal government was using the model by the University of Sydney and the BAMC.

“That work, that predictive modelled work is fundamental to what we're currently doing and it's informed our COVID-19 response of the services we're providing, the economic support we're providing, and then the path back to recovery,” he said.

“The national pandemic mental health plan frankly came out of a National Cabinet discussion between mental health ministers.

“We’re always responsible for what happens across the country. We're going to fight for all of those. Each life matters."

The government is expected to introduce a raft of healthcare funding in the wake of coronavirus. Image: Getty

Associate Professor Jo-An Atkinson, head of the BAMC’s Systems Modelling & Simulation group, said the model’s trajectory is not “inevitable” and actions can be taken to mitigate the devastating impacts youth unemployment can have on mental health.

“Alternative strategies can be tested in the safe environment of a simulator before implementing them in the real world,” she said.

“Proactive, strategic investments in mental health programs and services will play a vital role in supplementing efforts at increasing community connectedness and the social and economic initiatives already being implemented to help flatten this curve.”

If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.