Increased demand in mental health service and the shifting client needs have proved challenging for healthcare providers during the pandemic.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has collected data that it reports showing "a rise in the use of crisis lines and mental health services since the onset of COVID-19".
Browne Psychology principal psychologist Krystal Browne said the practice had experience a sharp rise in bookings since the start of the pandemic.
"There's been a huge increase, particularly for younger people," she said.
"I've been very lucky in that I've been able to accommodate most new referrals, although my waitlist is pushing out a little bit more now. It's about four to five weeks, and I know some sites in Ararat are at about three months."
Ms Browne said she had observed a change in the symptoms people exhibit.
"Primarily what I'm seeing is more anxiety. There's a bit more health anxiety out there, and even more recently anxiety around the vaccines," she said.
"For people who have lost their jobs or are experiencing financial uncertainty there is certainly more depressive symptoms coming through.
"With the various lockdowns we've had there's been a lot of kids finding it really hard to get back to school and adjust to that old routine again.
"We're seeing more sleep disorders and adjustment disorders around trying to get back into the swing of things at school socially and academically. That is also compounded by more stress experienced by parents as well."
Grampians Community Health acting program leader for business growth Jemima Bibby said these include psychological therapy, community health, and family violence.
Ms Bibby sought feedback from staff in these sectors about how COVID-19 had affected the services they provided.
She said they reported people's needs changing throughout the pandemic.
"The need from consumers changed between the first and second lockdown," she said.
"As things approach COVID-normal we're also seeing increased anxiety around return to social practices, remaining COVID-safe, and what COVID-normal will look like.
"The staff feedback was also that people required more regular contact."
Ms Bibby said there had been an increased demand for mental health support.
"Our community health counsellors reported an increase in referrals around increased depression, anxiety, and social isolation, and also an increase in the number of referrals citing suicidal ideation," she said.
"We were probably up to two to three months before COVID, four months at most, but certainly not six months.
"We're finding that other service providers are in the same boat. We try to refer on and link into other services but everyone is experiencing the increased demand."
"It's about continual engagement with the peak bodies and funding departments, and advocating for consumers in the area," she said.
"Obviously we've just had the commission into mental health services so we're expecting across the sector there will be more funding available and that services are increased. But we still don't know, those are just the recommendations."
"There are some initiatives that have come through.
"There's the HeadtoHelp in Ballarat (which is also available across the Wimmera).
"We also have funding for the Social Connections program which offers non-clinical referrals for adults who are socially isolated.
"We also have funding for the Older Australians initiative which is similar but solely focused on older Australians.
"So there's some programs coming out helping people start to access the community again. These are broader and generally for socially isolated people and not those with specific conditions."
If you or someone you know has been impacted by this story, help and support is available.
- Lifeline on 13 11 14, send a text to 0477 13 11 14 or chat online via the Lifeline website.
- Beyond Blue phone 1300 22 4436 or chat online via the Beyond Blue website.
- Kids Help Line on 1800 55 1800 or visit their website.
- Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467 or www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au
- MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78 or www.mensline.org.au
- In an emergency call 000.
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