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Coronavirus effect on mental health revealed

Fears COVID-19 may be impacting the number of people taking their own lives appear to be unfounded, according to data from the Victorian Coroners Court, but more people are seeking help for their mental health.The court’s monthly suicide data report reveals there have been 580 deaths so far this year compared with 600 at the…

Fears COVID-19 may be impacting the number of people taking their own lives appear to be unfounded, according to data from the Victorian Coroners Court, but more people are seeking help for their mental health.

The court’s monthly suicide data report reveals there have been 580 deaths so far this year compared with 600 at the same time last year.

“This year to date frequency has been relatively steady over the past five years, with the 2020 frequency slightly lower than in 2019,” the report read.

Data also shows the monthly frequencies can fluctuate, but they tend to even out over the year.

“This demonstrates the importance of not attributing too much significance to the suicide frequency in any one month,” the report read.

In the previous monthly report, a potential elevated frequency was noted for this year among males aged under 18 and over 65.

“While the frequencies in these two groups are still somewhat elevated compared to what would be expected based on previous years, there were not a substantial number of suicides in either group in October 2020,” the report read.

Data suggests a possible emerging elevated suicide frequency among women aged 35 to 44.

“However, at this stage it is not possible to discount the effects of random fluctuation,” the report read.

“The deaths are currently under coronial investigation to identify any potential underlying issues.”

Victorian Mental Health Minister James Merlino said there had been about a 5 per cent increase in mental health emergency department presentations this year.

He said it was a higher percentage for young people and there had also been an increase in counselling services sought.

“Every suicide is an absolute tragedy,” Mr Merlino said on Thursday.

“But we are about 20 lower than this same time last year. So we’re not seeing it reflected in the death rate in terms of suicide, but we are seeing an increase in demand for services.

“Every single week, the Department of Health and Human Services is engaging with about 18 mental health service providers to get a real-time awareness of the impact of demand on particular services.”

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