The Morrison Government recognises it is a very challenging time for many Australians, with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on daily life and work having taken a considerable toll on the mental health of individuals and communities.

This is especially so in Victoria, which has endured the worst of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and is subject to further restrictions.

Nationally, since 16 March, there has been a 15% increase in the number of Medicare-subsidised mental health services delivered, with 7.4 million services provided and $819 million paid in benefits.

In Victoria, between September and October, the number of Medicare-funded mental health items has increased by 31% compared to the same period last year. In addition, the use of Beyond Blue’s Support line was 77% higher in Victoria than in the rest of the country, while Victorian use of Lifeline was 16% higher and Kids Helpline 24% higher than the rest of the country. Victorian state data also shows a 33% increase in child and youth contacts in community mental health services for eating disorders.

This data is of significant concern.

We encourage all Australians, and especially Victorians, to continue to stay on top of their mental and physical health and wellbeing wherever possible throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

It is okay not to feel okay. Help is available.

Through unprecedented investment in mental and physical health to support Australians during the pandemic and the restrictions used to contain it, the Morrison Government is ensuring essential supports are available whenever and wherever needed.

We have committed $2.4 billion to provide all Australians with access to telehealth, invested $5 million to fast track electronic prescribing, and provided $25 million to support home delivery of medicines. These services are ensuring everyone can look after their health from home, even if they are subject to movement restrictions.

The Government is also continuing to prioritise mental health and suicide prevention services, with record investment in mental health estimated to be $5.7 billion in 2020–21 alone.

We have made an additional 10 Medicare-subsidised individual psychological therapy sessions available each calendar year through a $100.8 million investment in the 2020–21 Federal Budget. If you or your loved ones are concerned about your mental health, you can get in touch with your local GP to discuss access to these items or other Medicare supported mental health options available to you.

The Government has also provided more than $500 million extra funding to rapidly scale up other vital mental health services to help Australians deal with lockdowns, the challenges of isolation, fear for loved ones, and concerns about employment.

This has included funding for the Beyond Blue’s Coronavirus Wellbeing Support Service, Lifeline, SANE, headspace and Kids Helpline, among other vital services. Information about these and many other free or low cost services is also available on the national mental health digital portal, Head to Health, at www.headtohealth.gov.au.

In addition to these nationally available supports, the Government is continuing to invest in specific extra services to support Victorians during this time and ensure everyone has access to essential care.

We provided $26.9 million to establish dedicated HeadtoHelp mental health clinics at 15 locations across Greater Melbourne and regional Victoria. These clinics are making mental health services more accessible in local communities. They are providing care delivered by multidisciplinary teams of mental health professionals, including GPs, mental health nurses, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers and other health workers. You can contact your local HeadtoHelp clinic on (1800595212) or online at www.headtohelp.org.au.

Lifeline, Kids Helpline, Beyond Blue and headspace have also received additional funds to ensure they have the capacity to respond to the much greater demand for services in Victoria.

We encourage everyone to make use of the many services available, but also to connect with others to seek and provide support. Even if we are required to stay physically distant, staying socially connected is a vital part of looking after our mental health and wellbeing. We can all play a part in keeping each other safe and well.

Anyone worried about their mental health, loneliness, finances, family, or other circumstances can contact the Beyond Blue Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service for free advice and counselling on 1800 512 348 or online. Immediate advice and support is also available through Lifeline (13 11 14) or Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800).