Spike in children suffering mental health issues in Victoria

Victorian parents are being urged to speak to their children about how they are coping with lockdown as hospitals experience a spike in adolescents presenting with mental health issues.

The Royal Children's Hospital has witnessed a surge in admissions of children with mental health difficulties, according to mental health director Dr Ric Haslam.

"The sorts of conditions that we're seeing in the Royal Children's Hospital are anxiety, depression, self-harm, suicidal behaviours and eating disorders," he said.

"We've also seen an increase in young people presenting with aggression, both verbal and physical.

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"And often these are children who might have developmental difficulties such as autism spectrum disorders."

The surge comes as Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced yesterday Melbourne is set to remain in lockdown for weeks longer, with Melbourne schools to stay closed until at least Term Four.

Victoria's Chief Psychiatrist Dr Neil Coventry offered advice today for individuals and families battling lockdown.

"It's a very uncertain situation that we find ourselves living within," he said.

"I want to make sure that we actually think about the impact that this is having.

"I also want to stress that there are a few simple things that parents can do to try and help their kids in the recovery."

Dr Coventry advised families to maintain normal routines, particularly families that are doing homeschooling.

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The Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne, Australia.

"Get that balance between study, relaxing downtime, chill-out times, certainly exercise and meal plans," he said.

"But also more importantly, around sleep patterns, particularly for our vulnerable teenagers."

The psychiatrist said the most important thing he wanted to stress was for people to talk to kids about how they are coping and have honest conversations.

"Please reach out to your kids. Don't be anxious and afraid to have the conversations about how your kids are coping," Dr Coventry said.

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"How are they feeling at the moment? What are their challenges and their confusions about what's going on?

"I would really stress this is a series of conversations – it is not a one-off, intense conversation.

"Choose your opportunities as a parent when you might be doing an activity with your child you can have some of those conversations."

For mental health support, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.

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