$48 million additional funding to support mental health and wellbeing during COVID-19

Health Industry Hub | May 18, 2020 |

The Australian Government is continuing to take action to help Australians whose mental health and wellbeing is being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic by providing an additional $48.1 million to support the Mental Health and Wellbeing Pandemic Response Plan presented to the National Cabinet on 15 May 2020.

The Government is making record investments in mental health services and support with expenditure estimated to be $5.2 billion this year alone.

This investment builds on approximately $500 million for mental health and suicide prevention announced by the Government since 30th January, including $64 million for suicide prevention, $74 million for preventative mental health services, and a significant proportion of the $669 million telehealth package to support MBS subsidised treatments provided by GPs, psychologists, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals.

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The Government recognises that many Australians are experiencing fear, anxiety, loneliness, financial and family stress as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures needed to contain it.

Supporting mental health and suicide prevention remains one of the Government’s highest priorities.

The package supports the three immediate priorities of the Plan:

  • Data and modelling
  • Outreach 
  • Connectivity

Enabling Early Action

A $2.6 million investment will boost national capability in monitoring, anticipating and reacting to the mental health impacts of the pandemic. This will be used to enhance and expand the National Self-harm and Suicide Monitoring System that was established at a cost of $15 million over three years in the 2019-20 Budget, and will support the provision of expert guidance for proactive decision making in mental health service deployment. 

In alignment with the Federal Government’s mental health initiative the #SelfcareInHealthcare campaign has been launched to encourage Pharma, Biotech and MedTech industry professionals to take action on mental health during COVID-19. LinkedIn post.

$4.7 million will be provided to continue investment in suicide prevention research through the National Suicide Prevention Research Fund administered by Suicide Prevention Australia, and to support the work of the National Suicide Prevention Taskforce.

Reaching Vulnerable Groups

The Plan also recognises that a number of groups have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, and that it is essential for all jurisdictions to support care in homes, workplaces and schools.

Older Australians have experienced high levels of social isolation and anxiety about illness and death from COVID-19. They have also experienced a reduction in mental healthcare services as a result of restrictions and lower uptake of digital technologies. The Government will provide $19 million to Primary Health Networks (PHNs) to deliver in-reach mental health services provided by mental health nurses.

As many people with ongoing mental illness have not been seeking face-to-face care due to the pandemic, a greater proportion of their day-to-day care has fallen on their carers. The Government will support carers by providing $3.5 million additional funding to Carers Australia and Carers Gateway to provide targeted assistance and information.

$3.5 million will be provided for specific supports and to ensure that health information is available from current service providers in languages other than English.

Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islander communities experienced complete lockdown and have been impacted by reduced access to mental health services, education and employment opportunities. $3.5 million will be provided to PHNs to work with local communities to bolster existing services as restrictions are lifted.

The Government also continues to work with Beyond Blue on the rollout of the Way Back Support Service, which provides aftercare services following a suicide attempt.

Connecting People to Care 

The National Plan recognises that many individuals, particularly those with ongoing or more complex mental illness, have had their usual care arrangements disrupted as a result of the pandemic and may find the mental health system challenging to navigate.

To make it easier for Australians to reach the care they need, the Australian Government will work with service providers and states and territories to create a system which will guide the onward care of people contacting federal digital and telephone support services by connecting them to appropriate local services that provide outreach care in the home.

In addition, a $10.4 million national mental health communications campaign will provide Australians with the confidence to reach out for help and the information they need to better support their mental health.

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