Fears of COVID-19 impacts on mental health reach Bowen Basin
MENTAL health issues suffered by mining workers across the Bowen Basin will soon receive adequate attention following a new half-million dollar funding initiative.
Mitsubishi Development on Thursday announced it had funded the $500,000 pilot program in a bid to improve psychological services for the site, particularly in the aftermath of COVID-19 job losses.
Wesley Medical Research’s COVID-19 Rapid Response Research Centre will conduct the initiative following its successful management in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19.
Mitsubishi Development’s chief executive officer, Sadahiko Haneji said while the mining sector had kept many employed during the pandemic, plenty across the community had suffered job loss in sectors that would not quickly recover.
It was in joint research undertaken with Wesley Medical Research, said Mr Haneji, that the extent of the possible devastation was revealed – prompting fears and an almost immediate response.
“We were concerned by new modelling that indicates Australia’s suicide rate could rise by up to 50 per cent as the impacts of job loss and economic hardship start to affect mental health,” he said.
“We have more than 50 years of experience operating in the Bowen Basin and know that mental health issues are more prevalent among the young and those who live in rural and regional Australia – so there was no question that we would act on this.”
General Manager of Wesley Medical Research Dr Claudia Giurgiuman said COVID-19 could tragically result in an extra 750 to 1500 suicides in Australia this year alone.
Sadly, that rate is expected to persist for up to five years should the current and significant economic downturn last more than 12 months.
“At this stage, the suicide rate is likely to overshadow the number of deaths in Australia directly attributable to COVID-19 infection, and Australia’s mental health system must be equipped to respond to the expected increase in demand for services,” Dr Giurgiuman said.
“When Mitsubishi Development approached us with their concerns, we designed a program that will have immediate impact in the Bowen Basin community by enabling access to a new evidence-based model of care to improve mental health outcomes.”
More than one million data points will be used to determine the program’s success, including the identification of how existing services in the region could be improved.
The groundbreaking new program will begin in August and will be accessible to all Bowen Basin communities.