Mental distress persists after Vic lockdown | Liverpool City champions

The COVID-19 lockdowns may be over in Victoria but the mental toll of the restrictions remains, a parliamentary inquiry has been told.

The number of people turning to the Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council for support at the height of the pandemic has risen by 126 per cent, the organization’s executive director Craig Wallace told a committee that oversaw the Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council’s pandemic orders state checked.

The support’s online support left vulnerable people more isolated and desperate, Wallace said.

“Repeated phone and video use was exhausting and became overwhelming, removing the desire and ability to continue seeking support,” he said Friday.

VMIAC developed the Check-In Peer Support program during the pandemic to connect unengaged people at risk with support staff who have a lived experience.

However, funding for the program from the state government will end next month, leaving its future uncertain, he told the inquiry.

“This is a big disappointment for us. I think the expectation is that we’ll be able to provide some of that through our core funding,” Mr Wallace said.

“We have a difficult situation over the next six weeks in which we must try to ensure that enough of this expertise is documented so that it can be carried forward by the organization.”

There is a need to continue these support programs because the demand for help is still high, Neil Turton-Lane, manager of VMIAC’s National Disability Insurance Scheme, told the inquiry.

“COVID is like a slow-moving train wreck that you’re watching,” he said.

“The pandemic is not over yet. Their impact is being felt very strongly at all levels of our community.”

Children, too, have had to deal with greater challenges during lockdown, Shadow Pandemic Victoria co-founders Jacquie Blackwell and Moran Dvir told the inquiry.

The couple set up their advocacy group last year to fight Victoria’s protracted school closures.

The government should not resort to school closures again, as doing so would only worsen children’s mental health, the group told the inquiry.

“We firmly believe that it is not the job of children to keep adults safe,” Ms Dvir said on Friday.

“The burden should never be on children, and the burden goes far beyond protecting adults.”

Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 (for people aged 5 to 25)

Australian Associated Press

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