Victorian chief health officer Brett Sutton appeared close to breaking point as he abruptly walked out of the the state’s Covid briefing.
Professor Sutton gave an emotional response to a question about eight teenage girls taking their own lives in Victoria’s lockdowns, appearing on the verge of tears.
Moments later, when asked how long Melbourne‘s curfew would last, he abruptly stepped down from the podium and left the press conference.
Prominent psychiatrist Professor Patrick McGorry had described the effects of the Covid-19 crisis on the mental health of teenagers as a ‘shadow pandemic’.
Professor McGorry said teenage girls were exhibiting increased eating disorders, self-harm and suicidal thoughts or actions over the course of the pandemic.
‘The system is drowning or crumbling,’ he said. ‘This is the shadow pandemic. And every lockdown makes it even worse.’
There were 862 attempted suicides in people aged five to 25 in the past six months, and double the amount of interventions to help vulnerable teens in the past year.
Such interventions were 99 per cent higher nationally from December 2020 to the end of May this year compared to the same period a year ago.
Kids Helpline said heightened levels of despair and depression through the Covid-19 lockdowns was a major contributory factor in the increase.
There was a 34 per cent increase in new eating disorders cases in the first part of the year, jumping from a weekly average of 654 in 2020 to 878 in 2021.
A similar increase was seen in the weekly number of teenagers who were hospitalised after self-harming or having suicidal thoughts from 98 in 2020 to 148 in 2021, a rise of 51 per cent.
The average weekly number of young people who required resuscitation or emergency care after suicide attempts also skyrocketed from 19.8 in 2020 to 28.7 this year, a 44.9 per cent jump.
Victoria – the state that battled the longest lockdowns and had the most deaths from Covid during 2020 – had the greatest increase in suicide interventions, jumping 189 per cent to 294.