Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Ruth Vine's interview on Sunrise on 23 December 2020

Read the transcript of Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Ruth Vine's interview on Sunrise on 23 December 2020 about coronavirus (COVID-19)

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This festive season is a difficult time for many Australians, but this year it's set to be even harder for some. According to the Australian bureau of statistics, one in five Australians are experiencing high or very high psychological distress due to COVID-19, with most of those being in the 18-34-year-old age bracket.


The National Mental Health Commission is urging Australians to prioritise time for the mental health and wellbeing, especially as we face new challenges from the pandemic over Christmas.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer for mental health, Dr Ruth Vine, joins us now. Dr Ruth, thank you so much for your time this morning. This is a really important chat, because more people than ever are going to be alone for Christmas. For a lot of people, it's just going to be difficult to know how hard it will be for many Australians being separated from their families after the horrific year they've gone through. What's your message to them?


Well firstly, thank you very much for inviting me on the program. And I agree, this Christmas is a particularly uncertain Christmas, isn't it? I mean, it comes on the back of a weird year that really, if you think back, started with drought and bushfires. and then varying parts of the country have had very different impositions on how they get around and how they connect. I think, I think that that's one of the important messages, that it's going to be very different for different people and that each of us probably needs to think, you know, what are the, the ways that we can best cope?

I mean, I think it was great to hear from Lynn just before, who's clearly developed an amazingly good connection with others. And I do think social connectedness - be that in the same room, or on a screen, on down the telephone - it's absolutely important. And planning for that, sort of thinking ahead to make time for that and not forgetting those who are particularly isolated such as our older citizens or residents of aged care facilities, making sure we're thinking beyond ourselves is not only good for their mental health, but I think also very good for ours.


Ruth, obviously mental health challenges are a lot more complex than Christmas and Christmas Day, but would one strategy for getting through Friday - if people are even more isolated this year - is perhaps picking another date to have Christmas? Say, we're going to do it mid next year or something? I mean, is that one way? And what are some of the other tools that you would recommend to people who are struggling?


Well, like I- As I said, I do think planning for time is very important. And one of, one of the great problems that we've had I think has been probably, particularly for those people in the Northern Beaches and New South Wales, has been the level of uncertainty - that we can't know today whether things will be lifted or not. And I do feel for those in government who have to make those very difficult decisions.

But I- So I would agree that anxiety often lives on the bank of uncertainty and doubt, and so trying to think what is the most solid thing, what do I really think is likely to happen - and it might be that in January or even later, or the next school holidays, that I'm going to revisit those plans and put things in place. But having said that, even if you can't go to where you wanted to go this Christmas, I don't think that means that you can't have contact with those people who you were hoping to have contact with. So I wouldn't completely give away Christmas Day.

Some people have a lot of food in their house; some people will have been intending to go to eat in other people's houses and now can't get there and need to get stuff. So, I'd keep a bit of Christmas while remembering that we might do some celebrating later in the year.


Well, Dr Ruth Vine, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer for Mental Health, we really appreciate your time and Merry Christmas.


And to you and to your families, thank you very much.


Thank you so much. And if you or anyone that you know needs help you can contact Lifeline or BeyondBlue.



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