Metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire are beginning another six weeks of lockdown due to a spike in COVID-19 cases.
While this second round of lockdown may bring the case numbers under control, its effects on Victorians’ mental health could be significant.
Australians are already experiencing mental health fallout from COVID-19. A prolonged pandemic, and a second lockdown, might only make things worse.
COVID-19 and our mental health
Our mental health is affected by changes in our social circumstances, and no event in recent history has wrought havoc with our daily lives quite like COVID-19.
Parents of newborns have had reduced access to social support.
Many people have had to grieve alone after the death of a loved one.
People experiencing homelessness have received temporary housing, but may have difficulty readjusting to life without support again.
Nursing home residents have endured months of isolation.
While we don’t yet know the full extent of the mental health fallout from COVID-19, we are seeing an increase in mental disorders like depression and anxiety.
As Melbournians return to lockdown, the impact of loneliness, fear, anxiety and hopelessness is likely to increase further.
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It could be harder the second time
A review of the literature around quarantine shows the mental health effects worsen with longer quarantine duration, infection fears, frustration, boredom, inadequate supplies, inadequate information, financial loss, and stigma.
The reality is we don’t know what the mental health effects of a second lockdown will be. But this second lockdown in Melbourne has all the features of a difficult quarantine situation, including enforced isolation from friends and relatives.
Another six weeks will likely bring frustration, anger and a sense of hopelessness, compounding the mental health effects we’ve felt up to this point.
Plus, any “novelty” we might have felt the first time has likely worn off.
This second lockdown also shows us COVID-19 is likely to be with us for a long time. Our hope for a quick resolution and return to normal is fading.
It won’t be the same for everyone
The effects of hardship, trauma and loss associated with lockdown and the pandemic more broadly are unlikely to be spread evenly across the population.