The Australian Government is providing an additional $12 million to ensure people in Victoria can access 24/7 mental health support through digital and telephone counselling services during this difficult time.

Our Government recognises the mental health impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on individuals and communities, particularly those in Victoria, where regrettable but necessary measures are needed to stop the spread of the virus.

The loss of freedom gained after the first lockdown, the challenges of isolation, fear for loved ones, and concerns about employment can all take a significant mental health toll.

The Government is making this additional investment to ensure that existing helplines can meet increased demand, and can connect clients to ongoing and more intensive support when needed.

This funding includes:

  • $5 million for headspace to increase outreach services to young people in the community who are in severe distress.
  • This will particularly focus on Year 11 and 12 students, young people who have lost their jobs, and tertiary students.
  • This funding will be also used to recruit and train outreach workers who will connect with young people in the community under supervision of headspace staff.
  • $2.5 million for Beyond Blue to expand capacity, extend counsellor webchat hours to operate 24/7, and boost the ability to refer people with severe and complex needs for five additional sessions.
  • $2.5 million for Lifeline to deal with increased call volumes from Victoria.
  • $2 million for Kids Helpline to increase its call answer rate and service responsiveness, deal with additional demand for services, and link to further support.

The latest boost for mental health services is addition to the 10 additional Medicare subsidised psychological therapy sessions for people subjected to further restrictions in areas impacted by the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, announced on Sunday 2nd August.

The additional Medicare support will allow people in eligible areas who have used their 10 sessions to continue to receive mental health care from their psychologist, psychiatrist, GP or other eligible allied health worker.

Our Government continues to work closely with the Victorian Government to ensure Victorians have access to mental health supports in these difficult times.

We have asked the Chief Executive Officer of the National Mental Health Commission, Christine Morgan, and Deputy Chief Medical Officer (Mental Health), Dr Ruth Vine, to work closely with our Victorian counterparts on any additional measures needed to support people living in Victoria.

This builds on our Government’s earlier commitments, totalling more than $500 million, to support the mental health and wellbeing of Australians through the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes:

  • $74 million to boost preventative mental health services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as part of a broader $1.1 billion package that included increased domestic violence support, telehealth services and emergency food relief;
  • $48.1 million to support the implementation of the National Mental Health and Wellbeing Pandemic Response Plan;
  • $20 million from the MRFF for research to improve mental health care and reduce suicide rates in Australia; and
  • $7.3 million providing an additional ten Medicare subsidised psychological therapy sessions for people who are affected by the further restrictions or who are in quarantine or required to self-isolate, and have used their existing 10 sessions. This applies across the whole of Victoria.

With expenditure for mental health services and suicide prevention estimated to be in excess of $5.2 billion in 2019-20, the Government continues to demonstrate its firm commitment to the mental health and wellbeing of all Australians.

The Beyond Blue Coronavirus Wellbeing Support Service is available to all Australians needing support through the COVID-19 pandemic and can be accessed via telephone at 1800 512 348 or online.

Anyone experiencing distress can seek immediate advice and support through Lifeline (13 11 14), Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800), or the Government’s digital mental health gateway, Head to Health.

If you are concerned about suicide, living with someone who is considering suicide, or bereaved by suicide, the Suicide Call Back Service is available at 1300 659 467 or on their website.