Mental health impact of COVID-19

Key points

  • Between 16 March 2020 and 1 May 2022, over 29.0 million MBS-subsidised mental health-related services were processed.
  • MBS-subsidised mental health services delivered via telephone or videoconference peaked during April 2020 when about half were delivered via telehealth. In the four weeks to 1 May 2022, 29.3% of services were delivered via telehealth.
  • The volume of mental health-related PBS prescriptions dispensed spiked in March 2020 when pandemic restrictions were first introduced, followed by a dip in April 2020. From mid-November 2021 to mid-March 2022, weekly volume tracked above the same week one year prior. These patterns were observed across all jurisdictions.
  • In the four weeks to 1 May 2022, Lifeline received 83,652 calls, up 2.5% and 0.2% from the same period in 2021 and 2020, respectively.
  • In the four weeks to 20 February 2022, Kids Helpline received 23,575 answerable contact attempts, down 5.5% and 9.8% from the same period in 2021 and 2020, respectively.
  • In the four weeks to 1 May 2022, Beyond Blue received 24,441 contacts, up 10.0% and down 7.0% from the same period in 2021 and 2020, respectively.

Figure COVID.1: Snapshot of MBS, PBS services and crisis support and information organisations

Figure COVID.1: Titled “Mental health services – national snapshot”. Contains four tiles with key points about mental health services. From the top left a tile titled “Medicare services” with text “929,884 MBS-subsidised mental health services were processed in the latest 4 weeks (4 Apr 2022 to 1 May 2022)”. Top right tile titled “Medicare services” with text “29% of MBS-subsidised mental health services in the latest 4 weeks were delivered by telehealth (4 Apr 2022 to 1 May 2022)”. Bottom left tile titled “Prescriptions” with text “3,400,326” PBS mental health-related prescriptions were dispensed in the latest 4 weeks (21 Feb 2022 to 20 Mar 2022)”. Bottom right tile titled “Crisis, support and information organisations” with text “83,652 contacts to lifeline in the latest 4 weeks (4 Apr 2022 to 1 May 2022).

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Key events

Events that may have impacted on service use over the period March 2020 to May 2022 across Australia include:

  • March 2020 – a national lockdown was introduced.
  • June 2020 – the second wave of COVID-19 cases in Victoria began.
  • August 2020 – a lockdown began in Victoria.
  • October 2020 – the Victorian lockdown was eased.
  • December 2020 – there was an outbreak of cases in Sydney’s Northern Beaches. 
  • January to March 2021 – there were brief snap lockdowns in some states and territories to contain COVID-19 spread.
  • July to October 2021 – a series of extensive lockdowns and/or extended lockdowns occurred in New South Wales (NSW), Victoria, and Australian Capital Territory
  • December 2021 and January 2022 – widespread restrictions were introduced due to outbreaks of the Omicron variant across the nation, including through the Christmas and New Year period.
  • March to May 2022 – vaccination rates began to meet state targets and restrictions were eased in NSW, Victoria and Queensland. Western Australia (WA) opened its borders from 3 March 2022, with restrictions easing further during March and April 2022.

Chronologies of state COVID-19 pandemic response measures

Data downloads:

Mental Health Impact of COVID-19 (1.9MB PDF)

This section of Mental Health Services in Australia (MHSA) will be updated quarterly during the pandemic and was last updated in August 2022. It presents information reported via the mental health COVID-19 dashboards and focuses on activity during the 4-week period from 4 April 2022 to 1 May 2022. Unless otherwise noted:

  • ‘The same period 1 year ago’ refers to the period 5 April 2021 to 2 May 2021.
  • ‘The same period 2 years ago’ refers to the period 6 April 2020 to 3 May 2020.
  • 'The same period 3 years ago’ refers to the period 8 April 2019 to 5 May 2019.

Mental Health Service Activity in Australia

Figure COVID.6: Number of MBS mental health services, by week of processing, 7 January 2019–1 May 2022

Figure COVID.6.1: Line chart showing the total number of Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) mental health services processed each week nationally from 7 January 2019 to 1 May 2022. All years fluctuate throughout the year with distinct seasonal patterns emerging across all years and dips in the graph corresponding to the Easter, Christmas, and New Year periods. The lowest number of services processed was 46,854 services in the week beginning 27 December 2021, during the Christmas period. Processed services peaked at 319,648 in the week beginning 16 August 2021. Apart from these limits, the weekly processing fluctuates in a band between approximately 200,000 and 300,000 services per week. In the latest 4 weeks of data (4 Apr 2022 to 1 May 2022), 929,884 services were processed, which is a 12% decrease compared to the same period in 2021, a 5% increase compared to 2020, and an 8% increase compared to 2019. 29% of services in the latest 4 weeks (to 01 May 2022) were delivered by telehealth, compared with 19% for the same period 1 year ago, 49% 2 years ago, and 1% 3 years ago.

Figure COVID.6.2: Line chart showing the proportion (per cent) of processed Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) services delivered by telehealth each week nationally from 6 January 2020 to 1 May 2022. The proportion of services delivered via telehealth rapidly increased from 1.1% in the week beginning 9 March 2020 to a record high of 50.5% in the week beginning 13 April 2020 during the first wave of the pandemic. The lowest proportion delivered by telehealth since its introduction was 18.0% in the week beginning 17 May 2021. The highest peak apart from the initial maximum was 38.0% in the week beginning 6 September 2021. Apart from these limits, the proportion of telehealth fluctuates in a band between approximately 20% to 40%. As this service is relatively new, seasonal behaviour is not yet clear. In the latest 4 weeks of data (4 Apr 2022 to 1 May 2022), 929,884 services were processed, which is a 12% decrease compared to the same period in 2021, a 5% increase compared to 2020, and an 8% increase compared to 2019. 29% of services in the latest 4 weeks (to 1 May 2022) were delivered by telehealth, compared with 19% for the same period 1 year ago, 49% 2 years ago, and 1% 3 years ago.

COVID.6.3: Line chart showing the number of Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) mental health-related prescriptions dispensed by week from 7 January 2019 to 20 March 2022. The number of prescriptions dispensed increased from 749,191 in the week beginning 6 January 2020 to a sharp peak of 1,013,909 in the week beginning 16 March 2020. A low occurred in the week beginning 6 April 2020 with 661,429 prescriptions dispensed, gradually increasing to a second peak of 903,456 in the week beginning 14 December 2020. The number of prescriptions dispensed in 2021 and 2022 follow a similar pattern to 2020 and have been consistently higher than 2020 excluding the March 2020 peak. In the latest 4 weeks of data (21 Feb 2022 to 20 March 2022), 3,400,326 prescriptions were dispensed, which is a 4% increase compared to the same period in 2021, a 4% decrease compared to 2020, and an 13% increase compared to 2019. 2,502,068 prescriptions for anti-depressants were dispensed in the latest 4 weeks (to 20 March 2022), which is a 5% increase compared to the same period in 2021, a 4% decrease compared to 2020, and an 17% increase compared to 2019.

Notes:
1) The drop in service numbers in late December– early January is a seasonal phenomenon like that observed for the same time period in previous years.
2) Data points represent week commencing date.

Source: Medicare Benefits Schedule data.

Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services

Between 16 March 2020 and 1 May 2022:

  • Over 29.0 million MBS-subsidised mental health-related services were processed nationally (and $3.3 billion in benefits were paid).
  • MBS-subsidised mental health-related service provision experienced a weekly maximum of just under 320,000 in the week beginning 16 August 2021.
  • Over the entire period MBS-subsidised mental health-related services can be characterised as continuing to follow seasonal patterns, with noticeable declines during seasonal holiday periods including Christmas and New Year, and Easter.
  • About 8.6 million (29.5 %) of these services were delivered via telehealth (either telephone or videoconference) with $1.0 billion in benefits paid for telehealth services.
  • COVID-19 telehealth mental health items were introduced on 13 March 2020 and mental health services delivered by telehealth reached its highest level shortly after in the week beginning 13 April 2020 at 50.5%.
  • Since the first peak, the proportion of telehealth services has fluctuated in a band between 18.0% (week beginning 17 May 2021) and 38.0% (week beginning 6 September 2021).

In the four weeks between 4 April 2022 and 1 May 2022:

  • Around 930,000 services were processed. This was:
    • 11.5% lower than the same period in 2021
    • 4.7% higher than the same period in 2020
    • 7.5% higher than the same period in 2019.
  • 29.3% of services were delivered via telehealth. This compares with:
    • 19.5% delivered via telehealth during the same period in 2021
    • 49.5% delivered via telehealth during the same period in 2020
    • 0.8% delivered via telehealth during the same period in 2019.

Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) mental health-related prescriptions

Between 16 March 2020 and 20 March 2022:

  • 86.6 million PBS mental health-related prescriptions were dispensed nationally.
  • 63.4 million PBS prescriptions for anti-depressants were dispensed nationally.
  • PBS mental health-related prescriptions experienced a weekly maximum of nearly 1,014,000 in the week beginning 16 March 2020, corresponding to the expansion of Continued Dispensing (Emergency Measures) and messaging around obtaining necessary medication (Services Australia 2021, DoH 2022). This represented an 18.6% increase in the number of mental health-related prescriptions dispensed in the four weeks to 29 March 2020 compared to the four weeks to 31 March 2019.
  • Over the entire period PBS mental health-related prescriptions can be characterised as continuing to follow seasonal patterns, with noticeable declines during seasonal holiday periods including Christmas and New Year, and Easter

In the four weeks between 21 February 2022 and 20 March 2022:

  • Over 3.4 million PBS mental health-related prescriptions were dispensed nationally. This was:
    • 3.8% higher than the same period in 2021
    • 3.7% lower than the same period in 2020
    • 12.7% higher than the same period in 2019.
  • PBS data reported in monthly dashboards lag other sources by six weeks to reduce the effect of administrative arrangements including late claims, updates to claims and cancellations.

National use of crisis and support organisations and online mental health information services

Figure COVID.7: National use of crisis, support, and information organisations, by week, 2019–2022

Figure COVID.7.1-7.3: Three line charts showing the number of contacts made to Lifeline (calls offered), Kids Helpline (answerable calls, webchats, and emails) and Beyond Blue (calls offered, webchats, and emails), by week from 2019 to 2022. From the beginning of 2020 Lifeline (calls offered) increased from a low of 18,993 in the week beginning 3 February 2020 to a peak of 22,064 in the week beginning 28 December 2020. Calls to Lifeline reached a record high 24,723 in the week beginning 6 September 2021 and reached a peak of 23,396 in the week beginning 27 December 2021, dipped slightly in January 2022 then back up to a 2022 peak of 23,191 in the week beginning 21 February 2022 down to 20,839 in the week beginning 25 April 2022. In the latest 4 weeks of data (4 Apr 2022 to 1 May 2022), there were 83,652 contacts, which is a 3% increase compared to the same period in 2021, a 0% change compared to 2020, and a 22% increase compared to 2019. There were 67,212 answered contacts in the latest 4 weeks (to 1 May 2022), which is a 7% decrease compared to the same period in 2021, a 10% decrease compared to 2020, and a 24% increase compared to 2019.

From the beginning of 2020 Kids Helpline contacts increased from a low of 6,142 in the week beginning 6 January 2020 to a steep peak of 9,435 in the week beginning 30 March 2020, with a gradual decline to 5,323 in the week beginning 21 December 2020 followed by a gradual increase to 8,799 contacts in the week beginning 6 September 2021. Following this, contacts gradually declined to 5,932 in the week commencing 14 February 2022. In the latest 4 weeks of data (24 Jan 2022 to 20 Feb 2022), there were 23,575 contacts, which is a 5% decrease compared to the same period in 2021, a 10% decrease compared to 2020, and a 2% decrease compared to 2019. There were 11,117 answered contacts in the latest 4 weeks (to 20 Feb 2022), which is a 25% decrease compared to the same period in 2021, a 7% decrease compared to 2020, and a 7% decrease compared to 2019.

From the beginning of 2020 Contacts to Beyond Blue (including the Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service) gradually increased from a low of 4,202 in the week beginning 20 January 2020 to a peak of 7,709 in the week beginning 3 August 2020, with fluctuations to 6,454 contacts in the week beginning 25 April 2022. In the latest 4 weeks of data (4 Apr 2022 to 1 May 2022), there were 24,441 contacts, which is a 10% increase compared to the same period in 2021, a 7% decrease compared to 2020, and a 47% increase compared to 2019. There were 16,488 answered contacts in the latest 4 weeks (to 1 May 2022), which is a 20% decrease compared to the same period in 2021, a 33% decrease compared to 2020, and a 23% increase compared to 2019.

Sources: Lifeline; Kids Helpline; Beyond Blue.

Figure COVID.7.4 Line chart showing the average number of daily website users by week for ReachOut and Head to Health from 7 January 2019 to 1 May 2022. The average number of daily ReachOut users by week increased from a low of 6,503 in the week beginning 6 January 2020 to a peak of 13,380 in the week beginning 30 March 2020. The average number of daily ReachOut users since fluctuated and showed a similar pattern in 2021 to 2020 but at slightly lower levels. The average number of daily ReachOut users in 2022 was lower than both 2021 and 2020 levels. There was an average of 6,105 daily users in the week beginning 3 January 2022 which declined to 5,219 in the week beginning 11 April 2022 and then increased to 6,417 in the beginning week 25 April 2022. The average number of daily Head to Health users per week increased from a low of 767 in the week beginning 6 January 2020 to a steep peak of 9,309 in the week beginning 23 March 2020. After a decline in subsequent months, the average number of daily Head to Health users further declined from another peak of 5,386 average daily users in the week beginning 15 February 2021 to 1,048 in the week beginning 3 January 2022. The average number of daily Head to Health users gradually increased to 3,688 in the week beginning 28 March 2022 and declined to 2,785 in the week beginning 25 April 2022. In the latest 4 weeks of data (4 Apr 2022 to 1 May 2022), there was an average of 5,959 ReachOut users per day, which is a 25% decrease compared to the same period in 2021, a 47% decrease compared to 2020, and a 33% decrease compared to 2019. There was an average of 2,776 Head to Health users per day in the latest 4 weeks (to 1 May 2022), which is a 112% increase compared to the same period in 2021, a 38% decrease compared to 2020, and a 184% increase compared to 2019.

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Notes:

Figure COVID.7.1-7.3:
1) Direct comparisons between organisations are not meaningful due to differences in populations being serviced, service models, funding envelopes, workforce availability and information systems.
2) Comparisons with previous years should be made with caution as historical trends may be impacted by a range of events, including planned awareness raising campaigns.
3) Data points represent week commencing date.

Figure COVID.7.2
1) Kids Helpline contacts presented in this graph exclude phone contact attempts abandoned during the privacy message.
2) Kids Helpline data is reported to 20/2/22 because of flooding impacts in late February resulting in data issues. Kids Helpline is working to resolve these issues.

Figure COVID.7.3
1) Beyond Blue launched an enhanced service model on 28 February 2022 with a new service delivery partner. Changes to operational workflows and data entry compliance through the transition period have resulted in lower rates of capture of demographic data and answered contacts. These transition issues are expected to continue to stabilise and improve. Caution is advised when comparing recent data to data recorded prior to 28 February 2022

Figure COVID.7.4
1) Data points represent week commencing date.
2) The spike in March 2020 for Head to Health likely relates to the release of the Head to Health COVID-19 page on 20 March 2020 and a direct link from the Department of Health website.
3) Since July 2021, several factors have contributed to a decrease in ReachOut website users, including seasonal decreases during school holiday periods, Google search algorithm changes, reductions in external marketing support and funding from Google, Facebook, NSW, and Beyond Blue, and an administrative error which resulted in some under-reporting. ReachOut is working to address these factors.

Recent activity

The crisis organisation activity varied, with different overall trends in demand by organisation in comparison to previous years. It should be noted that Kids Helpline data is reported to 20 February 2022 due to their main call centre being impacted by flooding in late February 2022 resulting in data issues. Kids Helpline is working to resolve these issues, and updated data will be included with the next quarterly release. Beyond Blue launched an enhanced service model on 28 February 2022 with a new service delivery partner. Changes to operational workflows and data entry compliance through the transition period have resulted in lower rates of capture of demographic data and answered contacts. These transition issues are expected to continue to stabilise and improve. Caution is advised when comparing recent data to data recorded prior to 28 February 2022.

  • In the four weeks to 1 May 2022, Lifeline saw demand that exceeded the same period in 2021 and 2020.
  • In the four weeks to 20 February 2022, Kids Helpline saw decreased demand from the same period in 2021 and 2020.
  • In the four weeks to 1 May 2022, Beyond Blue saw demand that exceeded the same period in 2021, but demand decreased from the same period in 2020.

There are a range of crisis, support, and information services available to support Australians experiencing mental health issues, such as Lifeline, Kids Helpline, Beyond Blue, and ReachOut. The Head to Health website created by the Australian Government brings together apps, online programs, online forums, phone services, and digital information resources to help people find the digital mental health services most suited to their needs. The Australian Government also funded Beyond Blue to create a dedicated Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service to provide free 24/7 mental health support, particularly for people not already connected to the mental health system. Other support organisations have incorporated pandemic support into their day-to-day services.

These crisis and support services reported increased demand for their services in March 2020 and have since reported fluctuations in activity during the pandemic. Total demand for crisis and support organisations trended upward from June 2021 to early September 2021, with Lifeline reaching record call demand in September 2021 (Figure COVID.7.1). Direct comparisons between organisations are not meaningful due to differences in populations being serviced, service models, funding envelopes, workforce availability and information systems.

Mental health service activity in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, and Western Australia

Figure COVID.8: MBS mental health services per 100,000 population, by jurisdiction, week of processing, 6 January 2020 – 1 May 2022

Figure COVID.8:

Line chart showing the rate per 100,000 population of Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) mental health services processed each week for New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia from January 2020 to May 2022. The rate of services processed in New South Wales increased from a low of 734 in the week beginning 6 April 2020 to a peak of 1,114 in the week beginning 14 December 2020 before a sharp dip to 240 two weeks later in the week beginning 28 December 2020. 2021 showed a similar pattern to 2020. The rate of services in New South Wales was 856 in the week beginning 25 April 2022. Variability can be due to the administrative arrangements associated with the processing of claims as well as practitioner/practice leave arrangements associated with public holidays.

The rate of services processed in Victoria per 100,000 population gradually increased from 846 in the week beginning 6 April 2020 to peak at 1,379 in the week beginning 12 October 2020, with a sharp dip to 306 in the week beginning 28 December 2020. 2021 showed a similar pattern to 2020. The rate of services in Victoria was a high of 1,044 in the week beginning 25 April 2022. Variability can be due to the administrative arrangements associated with the processing of claims as well as practitioner/practice leave arrangements associated with public holidays.

The rate of services processed in Queensland follows a similar pattern to New South Wales and Victoria, increasing from 795 in the week beginning 6 April 2020 to a peak at 1,204 in the week beginning 23 November 2020 to a sharp dip of 224 in the week beginning 28 December 2020. 2021 showed a similar pattern to 2020 and had a peak of 1,266 in the week beginning 16 August 2021. The rate of services in Queensland was 910 in the week beginning 25 April 2022. Variability can be due to the administrative arrangements associated with the processing of claims as well as practitioner/practice leave arrangements associated with public holidays.

The rate of services processed in Western Australia follows a similar pattern to other states, increasing from 681 in the week beginning 6 April 2020 to a peak at 1,062 in the week beginning 7 December 2020 to a sharp dip of 232 in the week beginning 28 December 2020. 2021 showed a similar pattern to 2020 and had a peak of 1,155 in the week beginning 16 August 2021. The rate of services in Western Australia was 802 in the week beginning 25 April 2022. Variability can be due to the administrative arrangements associated with the processing of claims as well as practitioner/practice leave arrangements associated with public holidays.

Notes:

1. Rates are based on estimated resident populations at 30 June 2020 for 2020 and 30 June 2021 for 2021 and 2022.
2. Data points represent week commencing date.
Source: Medicare Benefits Schedule data.

MBS mental health telehealth services in New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland

In the four weeks to 1 May 2022, mental health-related MBS service use decreased in New South Wales (12.0%), Victoria (12.3%), Queensland (11.0%), and Western Australia (9.8%) from the same time 1 year ago (Figure COVID.8). During this period, Victorians had the highest rate of MBS service use (4,150 services per 100,000 population), which has been consistent throughout the pandemic and with pre-pandemic service use trends. In the four weeks to 1 May 2022, the rate of services per 100,000 population was 3,472 in New South Wales, 3,617 in Queensland and 3,348 in Western Australia. 

These states have seen differing demand for MBS services throughout the pandemic. The four-week period with the highest mental health-related MBS service use during the pandemic to date for each state was the four weeks to 12 September 2021 with 4,548 services per 100,000 population in New South Wales, 5,671 in Victoria, 4,873 in Queensland and 4,479 in Western Australia.

COVID-19 telehealth mental health items were introduced on 13 March 2020, and mental health services delivered by telehealth nationally reached its highest level shortly after in the week beginning 13 April 2020 at 50.5%.

In the four weeks to 1 May 2022, nearly one third (31.7%) of services in New South Wales were delivered via telehealth, compared to 36.2% in Victoria, 21.4% in Queensland, and 20.3% in Western Australia (Figure COVID.9).

Figure COVID.9: Proportion (per cent) of MBS mental health services delivered via telehealth, by jurisdiction, week of processing, 16 March 2020 – 1 May 2022

Line chart showing the per cent of processed Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) mental health services delivered via telehealth each week for New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, and Western Australia from 16 March 2020 to 1 May 2022. The proportion of services delivered via telehealth in New South Wales increased from 3.1% in the week beginning 16 March 2020 to a 2020 peak of 48.8% in the week beginning 13 April 2020, with a decline to 16.0% in the week beginning 24 May 2021. This low was followed by a sharp rise between the weeks of 14 June 2021 and 30 August 2021, with a sustained 2021 peak of 54.0% for the two weeks to 12 September 2021 and subsequent fluctuations to 30.2% in the week beginning 25 April 2022. The proportion of services delivered via telehealth in Victoria increased from 2.5% in the week beginning 16 March 2020 to a peak of 55.5% in the week beginning 27 April 2020, and following a dip in June, increased to the highest 2020 peak at 6.3% in the week beginning 31 August 2020, with subsequent fluctuations to 34.6% in the week beginning 25 April 2022. The proportion of services delivered via telehealth in Queensland increased from 3.6% in the week beginning 16 March 2020 to a peak of 48.0% in the week beginning 13 April 2020, with a decline to 20.6% in the week beginning 25 April 2022. The proportion of services delivered via telehealth in Western Australia increased from 1.8% in the week beginning 16 March 2020 to a peak of 45.7% in the week beginning 13 April 2020, with a decline to 19.5% in the week beginning 25 April 2022.

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Notes:
1) Data points represent week commencing date.

Source: Medicare Benefits Schedule data.

Crisis and support organisation activity in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, and Western Australia

For New South Wales and Victoria, from the early stages of the pandemic in Australia to March 2021, contacts per 100,000 population answered by Lifeline, Kids Helpline and Beyond Blue tended to be higher than the same period one-year prior. After that, as the comparison periods also occurred during the pandemic, year-on-year comparisons tend to differ between jurisdictions and organisations, and over time (Figure COVID.10).

Figure COVID.10: Crisis and support organisation answered contacts by jurisdiction, week, 2020–2022

Figure COVID.10 -10.4

3 grids of 3 line charts showing the rate per 100,000 population of crisis and support organisation answered contacts each week, for New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia from 2020 to 2022.
New South Wales follows similar trajectories to most jurisdictions. Lifeline trended substantially higher in 2021 between August and October than the same period in 2020 with a peak of 97 answered contacts per 100,000 population in the week of 30 August 2021 compared to 73 per 100,000 in week of 31 August 2020. Beyond Blue trended down in 2022  with a decline from 13 per 100,000 in the week of 3 January 2022 to 4 per 100,000 in the week of 25 April 2022. This is linked to a change in service provider mentioned in note 6 of this figure. The figure has information tiles on the right, the content of these tiles is repeated in the text below this series of figures.

Victoria follows similar trajectories to most jurisdictions. Some notable exceptions. Kids Helpline trended substantially higher in 2020 between August and November than the same period in 2021 with a peak of 16 per 100,000 in the week of 2 November 2020 compared to 10 per 100,000 in week of 1 November 2021. Beyond Blue trended substantially higher in 2020 between August and October than the same period in 2021 with a peak of 29 per 100,000 in the week of 10 August 2020 compared to 21 per 100,000 in week of 9 August 2021. Beyond Blue trended down in 2022 with a peak of 15 per 100,000 in the week of 3 January 2022 to a low of 5 per 100,000 in the week of 25 April 2022. The figure has information tiles on the right, the content of these tiles is repeated in the text below this series of figures.

Queensland follows a similar trajectory to the other jurisdictions. Beyond Blue trended down in 2022, with a peak of 11 per 100,000 in the week of 3 January 2022 to a low of 3 per 100,000 in the week of 18 April 2022. The figure has information tiles on the right, the content of these tiles is repeated in the text below this series of figures.

Western Australia follows similar trajectories to most jurisdictions. Lifeline trended substantially higher in 2021 between June and September than the same period in 2020 with a peak of 66 per 100,000 in the week of 30 August 2021 compared to 42 per 100,000 in week of 31 August 2020. Beyond Blue trended down in 2022 with a peak of 11 per 100,000 in the week of 3 January 2022 to a low of 3 per 100,000 in the week of 18 April 2022. The figure has information tiles on the right, the content of these tiles is repeated in the text below this series of figures.

Figure 10.5 

Three line charts showing the number of contacts made to Lifeline (calls offered), Kids Helpline (answerable calls, webchats, and emails) and Beyond Blue (calls offered, webchats, and emails), by week from 2019 to 2022. From the beginning of 2020 Lifeline (calls offered) increased from a low of 18,993 in the week beginning 3 February 2020 to a peak of 22,064 in the week beginning 28 December 2020. Calls to Lifeline reached a record high 24,723 in the week beginning 6 September 2021 and reached a peak of 23,396 in the week beginning 27 December 2021, dipped slightly in January 2022 then back up to a 2022 peak of 23,191 in the week beginning 21 February 2022 down to 20,839 in the week beginning 25 April 2022. In the latest 4 weeks of data (04 Apr 2022 to 01 May 2022), there were 83,652 contacts, which is a 3% increase compared to the same period in 2021, a 0% change compared to 2020, and a 22% increase compared to 2019. There were 67,212 answered contacts in the latest 4 weeks (to 01 May 2022), which is a 7% decrease compared to the same period in 2021, a 10% decrease compared to 2020, and a 24% increase compared to 2019.

From the beginning of 2020 Kids Helpline contacts increased from a low of 6,142 in the week beginning 6 January 2020 to a steep peak of 9,435 in the week beginning 30 March 2020, with a gradual decline to 5,323 in the week beginning 21 December 2020 followed by a gradual increase to 8,799 contacts in the week beginning 6 September 2021. Following this, contacts gradually declined to 5,932 in the week commencing 14 February 2022. In the latest 4 weeks of data (24 Jan 2022 to 20 Feb 2022), there were 23,575 contacts, which is a 5% decrease compared to the same period in 2021, a 10% decrease compared to 2020, and a 2% decrease compared to 2019. There were 11,117 answered contacts in the latest 4 weeks (to 20 Feb 2022), which is a 25% decrease compared to the same period in 2021, a 7% decrease compared to 2020, and a 7% decrease compared to 2019.

From the beginning of 2020 Contacts to Beyond Blue (including the Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service) gradually increased from a low of 4,202 in the week beginning 20 January 2020 to a peak of 7,709 in the week beginning 3 August 2020, with fluctuations to 6,454 contacts in the week beginning 25 April 2022. In the latest 4 weeks of data (04 Apr 2022 to 01 May 2022), there were 24,441 contacts, which is a 10% increase compared to the same period in 2021, a 7% decrease compared to 2020, and a 47% increase compared to 2019. There were 16,488 answered contacts in the latest 4 weeks (to 01 May 2022), which is a 20% decrease compared to the same period in 2021, a 33% decrease compared to 2020, and a 23% increase compared to 2019.

Notes:
1) Lifeline numbers represent answered calls only. Kids Helpline numbers represent answered calls, webchats, emails, and outbound contacts. Beyond Blue numbers represent answered calls, webchats and emails.
2) State/territory information is not available for all answered contacts. In the latest four weeks there were more than 5,000 contacts with unknown address for Beyond Blue, about 1,600 for Kids Helpline and less than 5 for Lifeline.
3) Rates are based on estimated resident populations at 30 June 2020 for 2020 and 30 June 2021 for 2021 and 2022.
4) Data points represent week commencing date.
5) Kids Helpline data is reported to 20/2/22 because of flooding impacts in late February resulting in data issues. Kids Helpline is working to resolve these issues.
6) Beyond Blue launched an enhanced service model on 28 February 2022 with a new service delivery partner. Changes to operational workflows and data entry compliance through the transition period have resulted in lower rates of capture of demographic data and answered contacts. These transition issues are expected to continue to stabilise and improve. Caution is advised when comparing recent data to data recorded prior to 28 February 2022. Year-on-year comparison statistics for Beyond BLue are not reported in this figure. 

Sources: Lifeline; Kids Helpline; Beyond Blue.

Emerging research

Researchers and other organisations have studied the impacts of the pandemic on the mental health of Australians. The Australian National University’s (ANU) COVID-19 Impact Monitoring Survey Program conducted surveys in February, April, May, August, and November 2020, in January, April, August and October 2021, and in January 2022. The ABS has also conducted the Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey and the Melbourne Institute - University of Melbourne has looked at the mental health impacts of the pandemic in its weekly Taking the Pulse of the Nation Survey. These surveys show similar findings about the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of particular groups within the Australian population, for instance, that young people and women are more likely to report higher levels of psychological distress.