Worrying new details out of Australia’s worst-hit city have laid bare the devastating side effects of fighting Covid-19.
A telling new study has revealed the devastating impact extended Covid-19 lockdowns have on the broader community.
As central Sydney enters a week-long “stay at home order”, Aussies have once again been forced to readjust to isolation on the back of a few dozen cases on the loose.
But according to researchers for the, the impact of widespread economic and social restrictions is undeniable, revealing incredible mental health numbers from those who were stuck in Melbourne’s gruelling 112-day lockdown in 2020.
The near four-month stint is regarded as one of the world’s longest Covid-19 lockdowns.
During that time, thousands of casual workers, contractors and small business owners were forced to sit tight and weather the government-imposed confinement.
The strict laws banning most industries with face-to-face contact, coupled with the Andrews government’s lockdown response, meant tens of thousands were left uncertain about their immediate future for months.
The study, conducted by nine mental health researchers out of Monash University’s Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health, revealed one-third of those surveyed in lockdown experienced depression, while a fifth reported suicidal ideation.
Shockingly, one in ten “seriously considered” suicide in the 30 days prior to the survey.
The study revealed young adults, unpaid caregivers, people with disabilities, and people with diagnosed psychiatric or sleep conditions are at increased risk of adverse mental health symptoms.
The new data also found 12.3 per cent of lockdowners had started or increased using substances to deal with state-sanctioned confinement and lack of employment.
“These are concerning levels of adverse mental and behavioural health symptoms, absolutely,” PhD candidate and report author Mark Czeisler said.
The study reveals symptoms of burnout, anxiety, and depressive disorder were unchanged in those surveyed between April-2020 and September-2020.
It also revealed “persistently common experiences of adverse mental health symptoms despite low SARS-CoV-2 prevalence during prolonged lockdown highlight the urgent need for mental health support services”.
Ian Hickie from the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Institute said the data aligned with recent studies into mental health in Australia’s youth. Professor Hickie said the obvious side-effects of extended lockdowns were undeniable despite them being crucial in Australia’s fight against the global pandemic.
“Sadly it does reflect the fact that although we were spared the worst of the health crisis in Australia, the social and economic impacts have been profound, and they‘re ongoing, they’re not limited to the lockdown period,” he said via the ABC.
“Most of the evidence we have, particularly for young people, is that these rates were increasing pre-Covid. They then went up markedly in the first Covid lockdown, and then subsequently in terms of emergency department presentations and really serious attempts at self-harm or suicide.”
Melbourne musiciantold news.com.au the lockdown period was particularly hard on the music and events industry, which was stopped in its tracks during Victoria’s biggest outbreak, when 800 cases emerged per day.
Before the pandemic, Melbourne’s thriving music scene attracted talent from around the world.
Ms Sutherland believes the government mishandled the lockdown period, including the confusing criteria musicians had to meet to earn disaster payments, contributed to a decline in mental health for performers.
“This last lockdown was particularly hard for anybody already struggling,” Ms Sutherland told news.com.au.
“The requirement for Centrelink disaster payments was that you weren’t already on Centrelink’s roster for cheques. Given that there has been very little gigs and heavy capacity restrictions a lot of artists are already relying on Centrelink to help pay their rent.
“On top of this, to be eligible for the business grants you had be bringing in more than $75k a year and registered for GST. I can’t imagine there’s many artists who’d fit either of those criteria.
“It feels like music is very important to most people but in times of crisis its value is completely overlooked. I can’t get this image out of my head of (Premier) Dan Andrews sitting at home in the evening with a glass of red, listening to his favourite Melbourne “indie” musicians on Spotify (through his chromecast), and reading over plans for another lockdown.”
Melbourne-based events co-ordinator Alex Radovan says he was made homeless by the lack of work.
After moving to Victoria from Sydney to work as an events contractor, the 25-year-old was forced to up-stumps on his new life with little certainty on the horizon, piling everything he owned into his van and ditching his carefully laid out plans.
When he returned to Melbourne in March 2021, he was taken aback by what he saw.
“It was weird, because I was working off-grid in the bush for a while at the start of March. When I came back into Melbourne, it was like walking into an alternate universe,” he told news.com.au.
“There was very little in the grocery stores, you had to just cook with whatever you could get. Public gyms were covered in caution tape. It was absolutely surreal and off-putting.”
Tragically, Mr Radovan had a friend commit suicide during the lockdown period, which he believes was a result of the unprecedented circumstances placed upon Melbourne.
“They were going through both personal and mental health issues at the time that were just exacerbated by the sudden change of everything,” he said.