It doesn’t seem to end, and the word disappointing seems too small to encompass the feelings of most Aussies when word spread that NSW was extending the current lockdown until August 28. Most of us feel helpless as we watch businesses struggle to remain afloat amid the pandemic and wait for vaccines to become widely available.

In lieu of our regular blog, we wanted to spend some time evaluating how the extended lockdown is affecting the state economically, the toll it is taking on mental health, and, most importantly, where to find help.


The Economy

Although Australia has avoided a recession for nearly 30 years, the pandemic has put the country at risk of experiencing two within twelve months.

A recession is defined as two consecutive quarters during which the economy shrinks. While a second recession isn’t guaranteed—many economists point out because the September quarter is predicted to be economically abysmal, it will be hard for the months after September to be any worse—it is possible for the country to experience a second recession before the year ends.

Recent reports on the economy don’t look good. The Bureau of Statistics recently released numbers for June and reported that retail trade took a hit. Overall, consumer spending dropped 1.8%, with Melbourne experiencing the greatest decline (3.5%) and Sydney coming in second (2%). According to the ABS report, restaurants, cafes, takeaway food services, and clothing and footwear retailers all saw significant decreases.

Not surprisingly, consumer confidence is also faltering, though not nearly as much as it was at the beginning of the pandemic. While the 5% drop in confidence is the steepest since March of 2020, it is important to remember it is still significantly higher than it was during the worst part of the pandemic last year, and economists feel certain that confidence will rebound quickly once restrictions are lifted.

Many businesses are teetering on the edge of disaster, with owners blowing through personal savings to keep companies afloat following the end of stimulus and other support programs. Though Prime Minister Morrison has reinstated financial support for businesses and employees affected by the Sydney shutdown, programs like JobKeeper have yet to be reinstated. In NSW, the government said it would lift the ban on non-occupied construction in most of Sydney in an effort to minimise the impact of extended lockdowns.

Are you ready for some good news? It just so happens that Australia’s trade position is strong. According to the Bureau of Statistics, the value of merchandise goods exports rose to a record-high $41.3 billion in the month of June. Economists predict the export sector will be integral in softening the blow of COVID on the economy in the upcoming months.


Mental Health Concerns as Lockdown Continues

The toll of continued lockdown restrictions on mental health is significant. According to a recent survey conducted by the Bureau of Statistics, one in five Australians report experiencing high levels of psychological distress linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. On the heels of the Sydney lockdown extension announcement, NSW and federal governments announced a joint $17 million mental health package designed to support those affected by the Sydney shutdown.

The Bureau’s survey (conducted in June prior to the current lockdown) revealed that 28% of adults reported experiencing nervousness in the four weeks prior and that 30% of younger Aussies (aged 18 – 34 years) reported very high levels of psychological distress in the month of June. A separate study conducted by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found similar results—young people (aged 15 – 24 years) are experiencing higher levels of mental health distress and job loss during the pandemic.


Who to contact for Mental Health

The negative effects of living through a pandemic—from isolation to health concerns, fear for loved ones, stress, depression, and anxiety—can easily take a toll on mental health. It is important to know you have options and help is available. The government learned just how detrimental the lockdowns were to those living in Victoria and is allocating funds to various mental-health-related programs to ensure those in NSW have access to the care they need.

If you or someone you love is struggling with mental health concerns, please contact one of the following organisations or your primary care doctor for help (list provided by 9NEWS):

  • LifelineNational charity providing 24-hr crisis support and suicide prevention services to those experiencing emotional distress.
  • Sane Australia – A mental health charity making a difference in the lives of people affected by complex mental health issues.
  • Beyond Blue – Offering support to those struggling with depression.
  • Kids Help LineProvides confidential counseling services for young people aged 5 – 25 years.
  • Parentline – Offers confidential counseling and support for parents and caregivers of children.
  • Suicide Call Back ServiceNational service offering 24hr counselling services to people affected by suicide.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to someone if you need help and, remember—we will get through this. Take care of yourselves, friends…and one another.