Children as young as 12 are being medicated for clinical depression due to Melbourne’s harsh COVID-19 lockdown measures, a doctor says.
Camberwell GP Stacey Harris said her young patients were suffering from “anguish, despair and suicidal thoughts” and pleaded with Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to ease restrictions.
“They have lost their friendship, they don‘t have their friendship, they don’t have their friends, school is gone, life for them is only learning at home and a walk for an hour a day. This has just gone on and on,” she told Sunrise on Thursday morning.
“Unless you live in Melbourne, you have no idea how hard it is. These kids are really struggling.”
Dr Harris said children as young as 12 were being medicated because they “are essentially clinically depressed”.
She and nine other doctors wrote and signed an open letter to Daniel Andrews warning him about the youth mental health crisis.
In the impassioned plea, Dr Harris revealed she was treating between 15 and 20 mental health conditions each day compared with just five a day last year.
When questioned if she had received a reply from the Premier, Ms Harris said she hadn’t.
“It is day nine today. He can ignore me, but don’t ignore these kids. He is turning his back on these young kids and teenagers. Don’t do that. Open the schools up. Let these kids be kids and teenagers,” she said.
“Please let us just be normal … other states have. Why can’t we? It astounds me that we are still in this position. Don’t tell us on Sunday, don’t do it next week, do it today and let these children have hope.
“Sadly, this mental health crisis is just huge, is a huge burden and I feel so sorry for these young people, I really do.”
There has also been a spike in the number of Victorians presenting to hospital for self-harm over the lockdown period.
It prompted the State Government to announce $60 million of mental health funding for people struggling to cope with the coronavirus pandemic last month.
There has been a 9.5 per cent rise in the number of overall hospital admissions for self-harm in recent weeks, with the biggest rise among young Victorians – a 33 per cent increase compared with the same period last year.
The $59.7 million of funding will go towards community mental healthcare to reduce the pressure on hospitals, with funding to also help nurses and other healthcare workers with counselling.