The number of people seeking treatment at The Banyans Health and Wellness for mental health concerns as well as chronic stress and burnout more than doubled in 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic took its toll.
Enquiries regarding mental health treatment at the nine-bed residential rehabilitation centre leapt to 1,141 in 2020, up from 452 previously, while those seeking help for chronic stress and burnout jumped to 51 from 21 previously.
Females were the hardest hit, with enquiries from women making up nearly 70 percent of those received at The Banyans in 2020, compared with only 23 percent earlier.
This trend grew over the course of the calendar year with women accounting for 56.3 percent of those who attended The Banyans Residence in the December 2020 quarter, up from 35 percent in the previous quarter.
In the December quarter, mental health conditions combined with those presenting with a dual diagnosis to account for the majority of the admissions, followed by substance dependency (mainly alcohol use), chronic stress, and eating disorders.
The Banyans Health and Wellness Clinical Director Peter Hayton said the pandemic combined with the social and economic impact of the bushfires early in 2020 to have a devastating impact on the mental wellbeing of Australians.
“These figures are just more evidence of the mounting toll of the pandemic on Australians as well as those living overseas,” Peter says.
Peter says fears about job security, financial worries, isolation, loneliness, and family stress all came to the forefront last year as the pandemic forced people into long lockdowns and quarantines.
These all served to heighten feelings of anxiety, stress, and depression, while also pushing many to increase their use of alcohol and other drugs.
“It’s not surprising to see the surge in enquiries from women after the year they’ve had. Many women faced a massive increase in pressure – most were dealing with the same issues that men faced, but they bore the brunt of homeschooling demands and keeping the kids busy while stuck at home,” Peter says.
“For many women, the toll was too great – they were trying to keep the kids’ education on track and keep the household running smoothly without the conflict that can often arise when many people are living in close quarters for a long period – all while trying to manage their own careers and make finances meet.
“It’s no wonder many women were crying out for help and looking for a much-needed circuit breaker that would get their lives back on track,” Peter says.
The impact on women followed them back into the workplace once lockdowns ended, with The Australian Council of Trade Unions finding women were three times more likely than men to develop mental conditions at work.
International border closures and the hurdles facing those who wanted to travel abroad, even for medical treatment, meant the vast majority of treatment enquiries at The Banyans came from those living in Australia with the number of international enquiries falling.
In 2020, The Banyans received 70 international enquiries, compared with 103 previously. Despite the difficulties of travelling, the number of international guests remained steady in 2020.
“While travel here certainly became more difficult in 2020 for those coming from overseas, our intake team provided such magnificent support that we still had those who were prepared to put up with the conditions in order to receive the essential treatment they needed,” Peter says.
The Banyans Intake Team helped those travelling from overseas to navigate the applications needed to secure an exemption to travel for medical treatment, liaised with High Commissions and Embassies offshore, and organised counselling sessions and the delivery of wellness hampers for clients during the compulsory hotel quarantine period in Brisbane.
“COVID-19 certainly delivered its challenges to us as a business in 2020, but we were agile enough to make sure our clients were always delivered the high-quality service that The Banyans is now known for, no matter what their circumstances,” Peter says.
“No client was left isolated in quarantine. They were well supported throughout that time by our team, whether they were travelling from overseas or interstate.”
Related: Borders are not a barrier to help
The Banyans Chief Executive Officer Ruth Limkin says the 2020 figures reinforced calls for a targeted focus on, and increased funding for, mental health programs as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are likely to be profound and long-term.
“We are currently experiencing the mere tip of the iceberg. The pandemic is far from over and the consequences of that on people’s mental stability and wellbeing are likely to be experienced for many years to come,” says Ruth.
“Governments, employers, and health professionals need to prepare now so that those in need are able to access appropriate assistance as soon as it’s required and are not forced to wait for access while their situation deteriorates further,” she says.
To enquire about a tailored program at The Residence or to place your name on the waiting list for The Banyans Health Plus, please call on 1300 226 926, email [email protected] or complete an online form for a confidential discussion about how you or someone you care about can benefit from The Banyans.