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All’s well as lockdown ends?

While most of us will recover our mental health after living in lockdown, for some it will be harder to bounce back.

That’s the finding of a new report from Australia’s Mental Health Think Tank, which ties together multiple sources of knowledge to present an overview of the mental health impacts of COVID-19 and resultant policy measures.

With the support of the BHP Foundation, the Think Tank was established in 2020 to stimulate bold thinking around a national response to mental health. It exists to empower Australians, create a better mental health system, embrace hope and build on strengths.

The report looked at more than 100 Australian studies, in addition to policy documents, community reports and first-hand accounts from more than 2,000 Australians to find out who experienced poor mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic and why.

What the Think Tank found was that the pandemic brought increased financial stress and reduced social support, which ‘pressurised’ personal triggers for poor mental health, more so than fear of infection. The report identified that the impact of the pandemic on mental health has been disproportionately experienced by certain members of Australian society, including but not limited to young people; females; people living with a disability or existing mental health issue; culturally and linguistically diverse people; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples; and people on low incomes.

The pandemic magnified existing mental health inequalities by disrupting the ability to maintain social roles and relationships that provided a meaningful life structure before COVID.

As to what can be done about it as we transition to living with COVID? The Think Tank found that in addition to improved access to quality mental health care, policy changes ae essential to ensure that all Australians have enough income to thrive and have opportunities to reconnect with meaningful work, education and community.

Access the report here to find out more.

Over the coming months, Australia’s Mental Health Think Tank will release research and recommendations for reform in response to each of the key lessons outlined in the report. As the Think Tank prepares those recommendations, the team warmly welcomes contributions from the broader community.

Australia’s Mental Health Think Tank is an independent group of world-leading researchers, leaders in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, clinicians, people with lived and living experience of mental ill-health, business leaders, carers and policy experts. It is chaired by Professor Maree Teesson AC from the Matilda Centre for Research in Mental Health and Substance Use at the University of Sydney. You can follow the Think Tank on Twitter or sign up to the mailing list via mentalhealththinktank.org.au.