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National peak body welcomes mental health funding

Suicide Prevention Australia welcomes the Australian Government’s decision to invest $74 million in mental health.  These measures will help relieve distress amongst our community at a time when we are faced with uncertainty.

This funding is part of a $1.1 billion dollar package designed to boost mental health services, domestic violence support, Medicare assistance for people at home and emergency food relief.

Suicide Prevention Australia CEO, Nieves Murray said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly shifted the social and economic landscape in Australia and will exacerbate the risk factors that are clearly linked to distress.

“The package will provide support for many Australians experiencing the impacts of COVID-19,” Ms Murray said.

“It’s important to remember that suicide prevention is complex and it needs to be addressed as a whole of government issue; it’s more than a health issue. Therefore, addressing mental health, domestic violence, community services and financial stress is critical.

“This package will help relieve distress within our community and hopefully prevent many from reaching crisis point,” said Ms Murray.

An initial $74 million will be provided to support the mental health and wellbeing of all Australians including:

  • $10M to establish a COVID-19 support line and additional funding to expand existing support services.
  • The digital mental health portal, Head to Health will be a single source of authoritative information and guidance on how to maintain good mental health during the coronavirus pandemic and in self-isolation, how to support children and loved ones, and how to access further mental health services and care.
  • $10 million will be provided to create a dedicated coronavirus wellbeing support line, delivered by Beyond Blue.
  • $14 million will bolster the capacity of mental health support providers who have experienced an unprecedented surge in call volumes with funding increasing their capacity, including $5 million for Lifeline and $2 million for Kids Helpline.
  • Health workers, who will be at the frontline of the pandemic, will get dedicated mental health support through digital platforms developed to provide advice, social support, assistance in managing stress and anxiety, and more in-depth treatment without having to attend in-person sessions.
  • $10 million will be provided to the Community Visitors Scheme for extra staff to train volunteer visitors, who will connect with older people in aged care online and by phone, and assist older Australians keep in touch with the community and loved ones.
  • $6.75 million will be provided to deliver the headspace digital work and study service and eheadspace. Mentors and headspace vocational specialists working in an integrated team will offer technical and life skills, providing a comprehensive digital support service for all young Australians during the COVID-19 pandemic and after.
  • Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia will develop culturally appropriate mental health and wellbeing resources.
  • $28.3 million will be utilised to continue to deliver psychosocial support to Commonwealth community mental health clients for a further 12 months.

Other initiatives includes:

  • An initial $150 million will be provided to support Australians experiencing domestic, family and sexual violence due to the fallout from coronavirus.
  • $669 million will be provided to expand Medicare-subsidised telehealth services for all Australians, with extra incentives to GPs and other health practitioners also delivered.
  • The GP bulk billing incentive will be doubled for GPs and an incentive payment will be established to ensure practices stay open to provide face to face services where they are essential for patients with conditions that can’t be treated through telehealth.
  • Immediately scale-up services through the National Debt Helpline — which is often the first point of contact for people experiencing financial difficulties, and to support one-on-one tele-financial counselling.
  • Creating a short-form Financial Counselling course through Financial Counselling Australia to train new financial counsellors to boost the workforce, potentially providing hundreds of new jobs.
  • Expanding access to safe, affordable financial products through the No Interest Loan Scheme which provides an immediate financial relief alternative to other high-risk, high-interest products such as credit cards and payday loans.