The impact of COVID-19 on mental health has been far-reaching and is something that Aussies will be dealing with for a long time to come.
Today, May 15, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the Australian Government announced the National Mental Health and Wellbeing Pandemic Response Plan in order to tackle this issue in the coming months.
“Today we are committing $48.1 million in additional support for the implementation of that plan,” Morrison said during a press conference this afternoon.
“And it was particularly encouraging to see that, with the advent of telehealth, we are now seeing the number of presentations and consultations occurring for mental health now back to levels that were being experienced pre-pandemic.”
According to Health Minister Greg Hunt, there will be three parts to this mental health plan. To start, $7.3 million will be invested in “research and data into what’s happening in real-time”.
“We’ve already had some information from Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania that is heartening, and more heartening than we’d expected. For the first four months, there has been no known increase in suicide rates in those three states,” he said.
“We watch very carefully, however, because these things can build up. They can brew. People can dwell. And so we want to get ahead of the curve.”
The second part will involve a $29.5 million investment in outreach for vulnerable communities, particularly the elderly, Indigenous Australians and those with pre-existing mental health conditions.
The final part of the plan will see $11.3 million invested in communication and outreach.
“$10.4 million of that will be part of a national campaign to say to Australians, ‘It’s OK not to be OK,'” Hunt said.
“Unprecedented times, anybody can feel the stress of mental health, and to say, ‘Not only is it OK not to be OK, but there are pathways to help, to let everybody know that there is help.’”
Christine Morgan, who heads up the National Mental Health Commission, also joined the press conference. According to Morgan, more mental health services have been delivered in the last four week compared to this time last year.
“We are actually seeing people engage with mental health services — great. We need more to. So, that is in and of itself an improvement,” she said.
“We understand the social context in which we exist, and we’re also seeing another really encouraging thing, and that is moving into delivering mental health care in community. But there are gaps.”
Hopefully, this newly announced plan will be able to fill some of those gaps as Aussies start to find their feet over the next few weeks and months.
If you or anyone you know is struggling and needs support, call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or Lifeline on 13 11 14, both of which provide trained counsellors you can talk with 24/7. You can also speak with someone confidentially at Headspace by calling 1800 650 890 or chat online here.