With Melbourne residents currently in six-weeks of stage four lockdown measures and stage three restrictions imposed for regional Victoria, the impact of this isolation on residents mental health will be significant.
To support Victorians through this tough time, the Australian Government has announced an injection of $7.3 million into mental health support services in the state. This includes an additional 10 Medicare subsidised psychological therapy sessions for those impacted by the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ten sessions will be available to any resident in Victoria who has already used their existing ten annual sessions, so you’ll still be able to access subsidised mental health care from your psychologist or psychiatrist.
If you haven’t used any of your existing subsided sessions, then you’ll have 20 sessions available to you. This new initiative only applies to the people who are currently subject to public health orders that restrict their movement, so this one is just for Victorians.
“The news of an extended lockdown, the news of an expanded lockdown, this will weigh heavily on many,” Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said. “With this lockdown, there will be mental health challenges.”
“Our advice and our message to all Australians, especially to Victorians, is as difficult as this may be, this is the moment that we rise to be our best selves and we will get through this.”
To access these sessions, Victorians will be required to have a Mental Health Treatment Plan and a review with their GP to access the additional sessions. This measure will commence on Friday, August 7 and be available until March 31, 2021.
The introduction of over-the-phone and online mental health services via Telehealth has allowed more Australians to access help when they need it. According to Hunt, Telehealth has seen over “22 million consultations, a large proportion of which have been for mental health or psychological support, and over $1.25 billion invested into that.”
This update to the number of subsidised sessions Victorians can access has been welcomed by Australia’s peak body for psychology, the Australian Psychological Society (APS).
“Many of our clients are quickly running out of sessions, and APS members have reported that more than half of their clients are likely to require more sessions than their mental health plans had allowed,” APS President Ros Knight said in a statement.
“We were also extremely concerned that in some cases, we are seeing people on mental health plans staggering their appointments with their psychologist in an attempt to make them last for a longer period of time.
“The additional opportunities to see a psychologist for these people will be a relief, and they now do not have to be fearful about a lack of professional help at such a challenging time of their lives.”
To access these subsidised sessions, you’ll need to talk to your GP in order to set up a Mental Health Care Plan.
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.