Two leaders in Victoria's mental health sector have encouraged families to address the mental health of children and teenagers during the coronavirus pandemic.
Victoria's chief psychiatrist Neil Coventry and Royal Children's Hospitality mental health director Ric Haslam addressed media today during the daily COVID-19 briefing.
Dr Coventry said it was important to talk about the impacts of mental health and wellbeing in children in the midst of the epidemic.
"It is an uncertain situation we find ourselves living in and we need to make sure we think about the impact it is having on all of us," he said.
"We're all feeling confused and uncertain about the future. I want to emphasise this is a normal reaction in an abnormal situation. Fortunately, most are able to cope with the challenge and use normal resources of strength, resilience and the support of family, loved ones and friends.
"But we need to acknowledge some people will struggle. For people struggling we have help available (but I) want to focus on a particularly vulnerable subset - kids, teenagers and families - who are experience impacts on their mental health.
"Research tells us the earlier you identify a problem, the better the outcomes."
Dr Haslam said the hospital has seen an increase in children presenting with mental health difficulties.
"The sorts of conditions we are seeing are anxiety, depression, self-harm, suicidal behaviours and eating disorders," he said. "Children are presenting with aggression - both physical and verbal.
"It has been the experience of our colleagues across regional Victoria and other jurisdictions in Australia and internationally (that there) is a notable rise in anxiety and depression in children and adolescents."
Dr Coventry said there were specific messages to take note of including feeling positive that you and your loved ones will be able to cope, outlining simple things families can do and encouraging conversations about mental health with children.
"There are very basic simple things (you can do) such as maintaining normal routines, which is particularly important with the situation of home-schooling and, more importantly, around sleep patterns," Dr Coventry said.
"We need to talk to kids about how we are coping. Please reach out and don't be anxious or afraid to have conversations about how kids are coping, what challenges there are with what's going on.
"It does not have to be a one-off intense conversation, you should choose moment when you are doing an activity with your children. It is a chance to explore how your child is feeling, encourage them to ask questions and have you answer as truthfully as you are able to do.
"It's important to acknowledge kids' feelings and help recognise they can manage what they are feeling."
Dr Coventry said there are different levels of help available to help identify kids' and parents' needs and the support and guidance they require.
"The Department of Health website has online resources for kids and families, there are telephone services such as Kids' Helpline," he said.
"If you are not sure what to do, reach out to your family doctor, your school's teachers or welfare staff for advice. Some (adolescents) need other counselling services such as headspace.
Dr Haslam said the Royal Commission in Mental Health Services had outlined a number of important recommendations to help guide the delivery of mental health services.
"One is consultation through GPs, pediatricians and others like psychiatrists in the community," he said. "The message to parents is that information is available. There are links to resources on the Royal Children's website but parents need to know how to support kids in this time and recognise how they may be struggling.
"Parents should also check in on themselves to see how they are coping and to reassure themselves their families are the top priority."
Dr Haslan said taking part in health activities, enjoying regular meals, ensuring everyone gets enough sleep, praising and rewarding children for doing things parents like to see would help families.
"Research tells us the earlier you identify a problem, the better the outcomes.
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