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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 10 Hansard (Friday, 8 October 2021) . . Page.. 3052 ..


resource mental health support services for frontline workers. They have put themselves in danger every single shift to keep the rest of us safe.

I am also calling on the government more broadly to continue funding youth mental health services adequately and appropriately, including a renewed focus on eating disorder programs. In late 2020, after the initial lockdowns across the country, hospital data revealed a 25 to 50 per cent increase in young people presenting to hospital with eating disorders. Protracted lockdowns and uncertainty have triggered a wave of eating disorders for young people in this country. As a government, we need to ensure that we properly resource all mental health services but, in light of recent studies, I think we need a particular focus on eating disorder programs.

The past nearly two years have been hard on young people, and it has had a massive impact on their mental health. More than ever we need to recognise the unique challenges posed to youth mental health in these times. Although the pandemic has been tough for all us, I do not think it is controversial to say it has been particularly hard for young people. I am proud to be part of a government that is committed to supporting young people and properly supporting their mental health, and I look forward to seeing this important work continue.

MS DAVIDSON (Murrumbidgee—Assistant Minister for Seniors, Veterans, Families and Community Services, Minister for Disability, Minister for Justice Health and Minister for Mental Health) (4.56): I thank Mr Pettersson for bringing mental health to the attention of the Assembly with this motion, and I welcome the opportunity to talk about the importance of mental health in our community.

Young people have stepped up to support their community’s wellbeing by staying at home during lockdown and getting vaccinated. Many young people have also volunteered in things like food relief or have been essential workers in retail and food services. Their commitment to their community and to all of us getting through this outbreak as safely and healthily as possible should be acknowledged.

In the ACT there has been an increase in younger people reporting mental health concerns and receiving mental health support, and this is expected to remain beyond the pandemic. As Mr Pettersson noted, for some of these young people, increased mental health issues will last in the long term. Research shows that this occurred with young people in Canberra following the 2003 bushfires and, while a pandemic is a different kind of natural disaster, it will have long-lasting impacts on mental wellbeing and community resilience.

During 2020 we saw a 34 per cent increase in psychological distress among 12- to 17-year-olds in the ACT. Recent ACT government YourSay survey results show that 43 per cent of 16- to 24-year-olds and 66 per cent of 25- to 34-year-olds rated their mental health as fair or poor. This reflects the fact that young people experienced greater loss of paid work as a result of the impacts on hospitality, retail and the arts, where so many young people work.

It is precisely for these reasons that the ACT government announced a nine per cent increase in the 2021-22 ACT budget to respond to mental health. This funding is in


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