Date published: 
3 June 2021
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

HAMISH MACDONALD: 

Well by the time this latest round of restrictions lift, Melburnians will have lived through 140 days of lockdown, sparking concerns about mental health. Dr Ruth Vine is the Deputy Chief Medical Officer for Mental Health. She's at the forefront of the Commonwealth's effort to limit the psychological damage caused by the pandemic. Welcome back to Breakfast.

RUTH VINE:

Thank you, Hamish. Good morning.

HAMISH MACDONALD:    

I mean, it seems to be stating the obvious, but this must be terribly difficult for everybody in Melbourne going through this again.

RUTH VINE:

Look, I think it is. I think it's very disappointing. I do think, of course, that we learnt a lot from the last one. I think we learnt, you know, the straightforward things, the common sense things of keeping in contact and making sure we stay close to our friends and family, structuring our day, getting the exercise we can, and making sure our goals for the day are achievable and we reward ourselves for those. But I agree, it is disappointing. And I think it's also really important to recognise that many of the supports that we put in place last year are still available. So things like the HeadtoHelp clinics in Victoria, which started last September, are still there. And the increased capacity in services like Beyond Blue or Kids Helpline or ReachOut are still there.

HAMISH MACDONALD: 

It's pretty clear that Victorians have displayed an enormous amount of resilience throughout the past year. Does that start to fray necessarily going through this again? I mean, the politics this time does seem to be a bit more fractured. There seems to be less agreement on some of the basic medical stuff around, you know, why this is spreading in this way this time. Does that all make it actually harder for the broader public to remain resilient?

RUTH VINE:

Look, I think, as previously, what's important is that there is regular communication, that that communication is honest and open and that people are as informed as they can be. I don't know that I agree with you that things are more fractured. I think we are in a different space now. We know that Victoria's contact tracing is, you know, has really geared up since last year. We know that the vaccines are available and it's great to see how many people are out and getting their vaccination. I got mine on Friday and I was in a pretty long queue, so I don't know that I would agree with that. But I mean, clearly, it is distressing and disturbing for people who have- a holiday's not able to be taken or a special family event can't occur. But I would agree with you that most people are resilient and most people will think, okay, we'll take stock again and we'll put something off and we'll revisit it when we can. But I also know that we are experiencing very heavy demands on our helplines, and I know that people are reaching out for help and I think that's a good thing.

HAMISH MACDONALD: 

Any indication of how much increase in demand there is currently?

RUTH VINE:

Look, I can't put a figure on that. I know that the increase that we saw last year did fall off a bit, but in fact, it was actually quite sustained. But again, there has been a bit of an increase in the last week on some of those helplines.

HAMISH MACDONALD: 

Is there a cumulative impact from all of these lockdowns for the people of Melbourne?

RUTH VINE:

I don't think I know the answer to that. And I know many people will be researching it and are doing regular surveys and keeping the pulse of how people are viewing themselves and their world. I would hope that, in fact, people do learn from some of these and do learn better coping mechanisms and learn the things that will help them seek help and get through. I don't think internationally we've seen persistent change. It's probably one of the things, Hamish, that is something that we- that is worrying and that we're keeping a very close eye on, are presentations of younger people and presentations of people with things like eating disorders. I think that needs to be closely watched to see whether that does return to normal or is something that continues. But at the moment, I don't think we know the answers to those questions.

HAMISH MACDONALD: 

There is a particular kind of impact that this has on young people, those that are sort of leaving school, getting into university. They are or even not going to university. But in that time of life, when they really might, in normal circumstances, be having a great time, be enjoying freedom and I suppose stepping out into the world. And this has really changed that whole period of their life, hasn't it, in a way that they may not get back?

RUTH VINE:

Look, I agree that for young people, for people who are going through significant development of themselves, who they are, their careers getting, I agree that I think they've had the toughest time. And I think that's been very tough for families as well. I would still say that it's possible to get that back. And in fact, we saw, you know, people get back to school after the lockdown last year and really thrive in the school environment. And I know that many of the sort of university celebrations that were put on hold have subsequently happened so that people can have that special day and that special recognition. So there are ways to get around this. But I am sure I'm with many other people in hoping that the second week is the last week of that of Victoria's lockdown.

HAMISH MACDONALD: 

I'm interested in a text that's just come in as I'm talking to you this morning from Jan in South Melbourne. Can you all stop talking about us in such a mournful way? We're fine. We do know we will beat this and all involved in doing that, just want the rest of Australia to thank us, not feel sorry for us. Is that a broader based sentiment?

RUTH VINE:

Oh, look, I'm sure that there are many different sentiments out there, but I think Jan's quite right that for many people, we get on and do it. We work out how we're going to live within the restrictions that are imposed upon us. How are we going to do that in a way that supports those around us and supports our family? But some people will be doing it hard. I'm very glad Jan wants the rest of Australia to thank us. And, you know, that's great. But some people will be doing it hard. And I think it's really important that those people know both the common sense, daily things to do, but also know when to reach out for help and how to do that.

HAMISH MACDONALD: 

Well, full respect to Jan for keeping calm and carrying on and thoughts with everyone that maybe is finding it a little bit tougher at the moment. Dr Ruth Vine, really appreciate your time this morning. Thank you.

RUTH VINE:

Thank you very much Hamish.

HAMISH MACDONALD: 

Dr Ruth Vine is the Deputy Chief Medical Officer for Mental Health. And of course, if you or anyone you know needs help, you can call Lifeline on 13-11-14. And as Dr Vine mentioned, there's a range of other support services available, particularly for people experiencing lockdown.

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