The impact of the second wave of COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on the mental health and wellbeing of large numbers of Australians.
With those facing varying degrees of COVID-related restrictions, the virus has hit hard across all states and the pandemic has proved a catalyst for a surge in mental and physical ill health.
To help alleviate some of the anxiety, fear, stress and panic being experienced by individuals in communities across the country, the Australian Government has announced a new plan to offer subsidised therapy sessions.
Specifically targeted at people subjected to further restrictions in areas impacted by the second wave of the pandemic, the initiative affords eligible recipients the chance to receive 10 additional Medicare-subsidised psychological therapy sessions.
These additional sessions will allow people in eligible areas who have used their initial 10 sessions to continue to receive mental health care from their psychologist, psychiatrist, GP or other eligible allied health worker.
While Victoria has become the new epicentre of the virus, the new session allowance applies to anyone whose movement has been restricted by public health orders from July 1, 2020 through to March 31, 2021.
In addition, anyone required to isolate or quarantine under public health orders is also deemed eligible.
To be approved for the program, those applying for the subsidised sessions will need to have a Mental Health Treatment Plan and a review with their GP who will need to approve the request.
In announcing the news on Sunday, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt noted the $7.3 million in additional support recognises that many people in areas impacted by the second wave of the pandemic will be facing increased emotional and mental stress.
“Mental health and suicide prevention remains one of our Government’s highest priorities, and this Government recognises the mental health impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on individuals and communities, particularly those in areas such as Victoria, where regrettable but necessary measures are needed to stop the spread of the virus,” Hunt said.
“This [initiative] will ensure that Australians can continue to access essential mental health treatment and support at this difficult time.”
Hunt said the government’s anticipated expenditure for mental health services and suicide prevention in 2019-20 would be more than $5.2 billion.
Other mental health initiatives introduced in recent months include:
- A dedicated Coronavirus digital resource and a 24×7 phone counselling service led by Beyond Blue and staffed by accredited mental health professionals
- An expansion of The Community Visitors Scheme with funding for extra staff and volunteers to ensure older people receiving aged care support stay connected online and by phone even though they may be physically separated from each other
- Funding to bolster critical phone and online support services, including Lifeline and Kids Helpline, ensuring they can meet anticipated increased demand and providing job opportunities for Australians to be trained as counsellors
- Continued expansion of the resources provided on the Government’s digital mental health gateway Head to Health, giving people access to trusted mental health information and services
- Extra investment in the Australian Psychological Society’s Find a Psychologist website to ensure people can connect with a psychologist if they need one, no matter where they are around Australia.
If you, or anyone you know, need support, please reach out to the numerous avenues available to receive the help you need. Two amazing organisations providing vital help to those in need include Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 and Lifeline 13 11 14, both offering 24/7 support.
And please, continue to take care of yourself and one another.