National survey: 3 in 4 Australians’ mental health and wellbeing impacted by COVID

Six months into COVID-19, 74 per cent of Australians have identified concerns for their mental health and wellbeing, according to a new national survey of 1,001 people for Uniting Church in Australia’s charity Wesley Mission.

The survey – conducted by McCrindle Research and released for National Mental Health Month this October – also indicated that Australians are most likely to have experienced uncertainty about the future (40 per cent), increased feelings of stress (30 per cent) and anxiety (27 per cent). A similar proportion have felt less in control during the COVID-19 pandemic (27 per cent).

Wesley Mission CEO, Rev Keith Garner, hopes the takeaway for Australians is a simple one: you are not alone.

“Isolation can cause you to retreat, and it’s easy to assume that you are alone in this challenge,” Garner said. “Our research unequivocally shows that current concerns for mental health is a common experience.”

As the research also reveals, only 54 per cent of Australians have sought support for mental health and wellbeing issues this year. Garner would like Australians’ shared experience during the pandemic to breakdown the stigma that still surrounds mental health and seeking help.

Dr John Kearney, Clinical Psychologist and Director of Psychological Services at Wesley Hospital Kogarah, NSW, shared some helpful first steps:

“Focusing on your own self-care, such as minimising or eliminating alcohol and caffeine intake, and taking time to invest in relationships with family and friends, is crucial to building personal resilience,” Kearney said.

“It is well known that maintaining social connections, even when assisted by technology, helps people feel better. So, speak to your partner, a friend or family member about how you’ve been feeling. Your GP is also a great person to talk to and can help you to access support.”

The research also revealed that the biggest barrier for Australians seeking support for their mental health and wellbeing is feeling like they can figure it out on their own. A similar proportion (21 per cent) don’t think their mental health challenges are serious enough to get support, and one in six (17 per cent) think other people are more in need of support than they are.

So, Garner encourages Australians to prioritise their own mental health and wellbeing.

“All of us have a role to play in dispelling the silence surrounding mental health …” – Keith Garner

“We’ve all had to adapt to the challenges of this crisis. Offer yourself the same compassion you extend to a friend or family member who shares their struggles with you. Support is available, and it starts with a brave conversation.”

“All of us have a role to play in dispelling the silence surrounding mental health and to support the people around us who are suffering,” he said.

For Wesley Mission, serving others – particularly those most in need – is considered “a vital expression” of the Christian faith.

Wesley Mission’s Wesley Hospital has provided treatment for mental health conditions for more than 60 years to patients from all over Australia. Its two private Sydney centres – Ashfield and Kogarah – offer evidence-based psychiatric, nursing and psychological support to treat depression, anxiety, addiction and other mental health conditions.

The organisation also delivers suicide prevention training to more than 40,000 Australians, residential and community care for mums with severe mental illness who have young children – and 24 hour crisis support through Lifeline on 13 11 14.

If you are experiencing mental health challenges or supporting someone who is, check out this comprehensive list of services, resources and support options from Mental Health Australia.

Need help now? Call 000 in Australia.