Grim warning: COVID impact on youth could last years
One of Australia's leading youth mental health services says it has had to stop taking on new clients because of a surge in demand caused by COVID-19.
It also fears the impact of the pandemic on young people could last for several more years.
headspace Taringa, the second busiest of the service's offices in the country, stopped taking referrals on Wednesday.
Regional manager, Jamie Thompson, said the current wait list was about three months.
It had made the difficult decision to not take on more referrals until it could get the wait list down to eight weeks.
"The volume of referrals is like nothing we've ever seen before,'' Mr Thompson said.
"The complexity of the issues faced by our young people has also greatly increased due to COVID.
"I think we are at the start of what could be several years of impacts on young people.
"We feel this is a time where we need to be growing to meet demand, but in fact we're going backwards.''
headspace opened in the inner-west suburb, which has a large youth population because of the nearby University of Queensland, six years ago.
But half of all its appointments had been in the past two years, with a surge since the pandemic.
Mr Thompson said he was hopeful headspace, which had bipartisan support, could secure a desperately needed increase in funds in the June federal Budget.
The organisation was set up as a "one-stop'' support service providing help for people aged 12 to 25 for mental health, drug and alcohol, employment and other issues.
"If we could get the funding, what we would love to do is move to a larger facility in Taringa,'' he said.
"We had an upgrade three years ago, with four new rooms bringing (Taringa) to a total of 12 rooms.
"We would love up to 20 consult rooms, though."
Federal MP for Ryan, Julian Simmonds, said he had spoken to Health Minister Greg Hunt asking for extra funding for headspace.
"I am determined to get them the extra federal funding they need to look after our local young people, many of who are struggling," he said.
"With 75 per cent of all mental health issues developing before the age of 25, and with the struggles of the COVID pandemic, headspace Taringa's services are needed now more than ever.
"The current wait time for support, due to demand, is simply unacceptable to me and I have spoken to the Health Minister directly in order to secure more funding so they can move to a larger premises and get access to more support practitioners."
Originally published as Grim warning: COVID impact on youth could last years