A special inquiry should be established in Victoria to investigate COVID-19-related impacts on mental health, including harrowing evidence the pandemic contributed to a surge in suicide and youth self-harm.
The recommendation is part of a new minority report published today as part of Victoria’s pandemic management inquiry.
The report delivered 22 scathing findings on the mental health impacts of COVID-related isolation and government restrictions, including that Victoria’s top mental health experts weren’t asked to “make recommendations … around pandemic orders to minimise the impact on the mental health of Victorians”.
Shadow Minister for Mental Health Emma Kealy, who sat on the Pandemic Declaration Accountability and Oversight Committee (PDAOC) and contributed to the minority report, said it also provides 10 further recommendations for positive change.
“We heard from too many experts who confirmed the mental health impacts of the Andrews Labor Government’s COVID restrictions was not only overlooked, but that it was wilfully ignored,” Ms Kealy said.
“Liberals and Nationals members of the PDAOC felt we could not, in good conscience, support the Committee’s majority report as it doesn’t appropriately consider – and even goes so far as to contradict – the evidence provided to the Committee.
“The Andrews Labor Government’s lack of care for Victorian’s mental wellbeing through the pandemic is still having a catastrophic impact.”
Evidence provided to the Committee by Beyond Blue, found demand for the service reached record levels during the pandemic and remains higher today than before March 2020.
Ms Kealy said the recommendations in the Minority Report specifically target measures to improve Victoria’s future response at times of crisis.
“We know the current mental health workforce is overwhelmed and exhausted, with demand outstripping workforce availability,” Ms Kealy said.
“Both the Royal Australian & NZ College of Psychiatrists and the Australian Association of Psychologists confirmed in their evidence that the Labor Government wilfully ignored their efforts to put up solutions to build the mental health workforce.
“Victorians must remember this November the devastating impact decades of Labor neglect have had on the inability of our mental health sector to respond to Victorians at crisis point.
“By contrast, the Liberals and Nationals will establish the nation’s largest worker recruitment drive with more scholarships on offer, extra training places opened for psychologists and psychiatrists and relocation incentives to join the workforce.”
The final report of Victorian Parliament’s Pandemic Declaration Accountability and Oversight Committee (PDAOC) was released today.
Liberals and Nationals members of the Committee provided a Minority Report, making a total of 38 findings and 26 recommendations related to impacts on Victorian’s physical health, mental wellbeing and the shortages in the health workforce.
The Minority Report was delivered as:
“Throughout the public hearings the Committee heard from a range of witnesses that provided evidence which was inconsistent and contradicted what the Government had told Victorians.”
The full report is available at Parliament’s Tabled Documents Database.