One in ten NSW residents diagnosed with a mental health issue

Publish date:
smiling family

One in ten NSW residents diagnosed with a mental health issue

A recent study of Covid-19 mental health impacts in NSW shows an overall negative impact of the pandemic on the population’s lifestyle and wellbeing, with one in ten NSW residents reporting to have experienced a new mental health issue during 2020.

Since March 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic has forced us to deal with a wide range of changes affecting our sense of freedom, relationships with our family and friends, our work, our studies, our financial wellbeing, and our mental health.

Learning about mental health provides a solid foundation to analyse the risks and recognise the early signs of mental health problems, have the tools and the confidence to act, and the essential skills to support people on their recovery journey. This allows individuals in clinical and non-clinical professions to perform better in their job, to have opportunities for professional and personal development, and to experience the benefits of supporting the community and those around them.

Covid-19 impact on mental health in NSW

In their July 2021 executive summary, the Mental Health Commission of NSW detailed many aspects of what they learned from Covid-19. The study's findings showed an overall negative impact of the pandemic on the population’s lifestyle and wellbeing, with at least four out of ten NSW residents reporting having experienced negative impacts on their way of life, finance, work or study, overall health and mental health.

The most alarming finding is related to people’s experience of mental health challenges with one in ten NSW residents reporting to have experienced a new mental health issue during 2020.

Since the onset of Covid-19, around 6% reported both a pre-existing mental health issue and a new issue in 2020, while 9% of NSW residents with no prior mental health challenges reported that they were experiencing a new mental health issue as advised by a mental health professional.

Among the main issues reported, depression and anxiety disorders continue to be the most common mental health issues, both before and during 2020. While other illnesses reported less frequently were bipolar disorder and a psychosis such as schizophrenia.

When looking at NSW residents in terms of demographics, a higher incidence of mental health issues was reported among:

  • Younger NSW residents
  • Households with children
  • Those born in Australia
  • LGBTQ+ residents
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander residents

Access to mental health support

In 2020, approximately half of the population had access to some form of mental health support or activity, seeking informal help among friends and family, community groups, formal support through clinical or mental health support groups, including local GPs, psychologists, psychiatrists, and Lifeline and Beyond Blue.

There were considerably higher levels of support utilised among different population groups, including younger people and those reporting a mental health issue. At least one source of support was accessed by:

  • 66% of young adults (18-29 years old)
  • 75% of those with a pre-Covid mental health issue
  • 87% of those with a new mental health issue

Among those with a pre-existing mental health issue, those who reported taking advantage of one or more sources of support were far more likely to report a positive impact during 2020 than those who did not report accessing any form of support.

However, of those that said they accessed ‘none of these’ forms of support, a larger proportion also reported that the pandemic had a negative (28%) or neutral (38%) impact on their pre-existing mental health issue than positive impact.

Increasing demand in mental health care

As we can see from the Mental Health Commission of NSW’s July 2021 executive summary, the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak has had a significant negative impact on the mental health and wellbeing of the NSW population. And while about half of the population has accessed mental health support, there is still a significant number of people who have not and who require support.

As the pandemic continues to have a significant impact on people’s mental health, there is an opportunity for individuals in clinical and non-clinical professions to strengthen their mental health knowledge and skills to provide mental health care as part of their role.

Since 2020, we have been seeing a lift in enquiry levels for our Applied Mental Health Studies courses and professional development units. This is a direct reflection of the increasing demand in mental health care.

About HETI Higher Education

As part of NSW Health, HETI Higher Education is uniquely placed to draw on the expertise within Australia’s largest health care system, as it delivers quality mental health postgraduate education to NSW Health staff, and students located across Australia and overseas.

Our Mental Health courses are designed to draw on a recovery-oriented approach to mental health care. In practice, this means HETI Higher Education supports genuine collaboration with individuals on their recovery journey by seeking to maximise hope, strength, resilience, and self-determination. The units are oriented to supporting skill development in the workplace for those with clinical and non-clinical backgrounds.

We are proud to deliver two progressive, recovery-oriented postgraduate courses in Applied Mental Health Studies and Psychiatric Medicine. Our curriculum draws on the current evidence base, offer contemporary education delivery and flexibility in learning that suits learners of today. We welcome a wide range of professionals and other learners to join our interdisciplinary learning community and follow their passion for mental health care.

Learn more about the HETI Higher Education mental health and professional development courses here.

Sources: Mental Health Commission, Impact of Covid-19 NSW Residents, 2021