The COVID-19 pandemic has compounded stress, anxiety and depression for many people, but it has particularly affected women in Victoria. According to The Age, the number of Victorian women reaching out for mental health support has spiked massively during the health crisis.
“We have never had so many referrals,” Professor Jayashri Kulkarni, who runs The Alfred hospital women’s mental health clinic, told The Age. “The data strongly shows that women of all ages – middle aged, older, younger women – are struggling more with depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder due to the impacts of COVID-19.”
There has been a growing number of patients with self-harm injuries presenting to the clinic and according to Professor Kulkarni, an increasing number of women who have not personally experienced mental health issues before now.
The reason behind this increase seems to be a combination of factors including economic instability and social isolation as well as the added stress of home school and caring for elderly family members.
“Women are largely responsible for bearing, caring and rearing of children. It’s a huge role,” said Professor Kulkarni. “They also make up a significant portion of the casual labour force, so as the economic downturn continues they are presenting with stresses around joblessness and money. We have also noted a significant rise in domestic violence. All of these factors exacerbate mental ill health.”
Beyond Blue chief executive Georgie Harman echoed Professor Kulkarni statements, revealing that roughly two-thirds of callers to Beyond Blue’s coronavirus mental health support line are women.
“We know women are experiencing significant challenges to their mental health as a result of this pandemic,” Harman told The Age. “This is concerning and it demands our attention. The challenge is to create a system that supports every Australian to act as early as possible to support their mental health.”
While it seems that women are struggling in greater numbers, Harman also noted that men were much less likely to seek support compared to women — even if they are struggling.
Despite this spike in people reaching out to mental health support services, there hasn’t been an increase in the suicide rate in Victoria during the state’s second lockdown, according to data released from the State Coroner last month.
This year has been particularly hard on mental health and if you’re having a hard time, please reach out. 2020 hasn’t been easy for anyone.
If you or anyone you know is struggling and needs support, call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or Lifeline on 13 11 14, both of which provide trained counsellors you can talk with 24/7. You can also speak with someone confidentially at Headspace by calling 1800 650 890 or chat online here.