29 March 2020

Labor welcomes the Governments announcement of a package to address mental health needs of Australians during the COVID-19 health emergency.

A mental health response is urgent. The Government must act now.

Last week Labor formally requested the Government develop a comprehensive mental health response including expanded support for mental health telehealth services, support for those affected by COVID-19, and dedicated support services.

In particular Labor welcomes the following measures from todays announcement:

Mental health telehealth service expansion
Specific COVID-19 portal on the Governments website
National mental health campaign during the COVID-19 health emergency
Dedicated COVID-19 wellbeing support line, including for financial stresses
Additional funding for mental health support providers who are experiencing unprecedented demands
Specific services for health professionals, older and vulnerable Australians, youth, and Indigenous Australians.

We welcome these measures, and request further details on these measures, particularly around support for those on the frontline, and those vulnerable populations.

We are also pleased the Government has taken up Labors call for an expansion of the Community Visitors Scheme for older Australians. There is more to be done - but this is an important recognition we must look after older Australians who are already at risk of loneliness and social isolation.

These are all things that Labor has consistently advocated for.

Labor urges the Government to roll out these measures immediately. At the same time information on where and how to access these services must be clearly communicated to those who may need them.

As well as these measures, Labor has requested the Government provide additional resources for:

Mental health screening for those tested for COVID-19
The mental health website for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis to include a self-help clinic aimed at early intervention and reducing pressure on the health system across Australia
Guarantee within the funds allocated, to ensure a mental health text service is available 24 hours a day.

Now is also the time for the Government to consult broadly and widely to ensure the best possible mental health response is incorporated in every measure taken in this emergency.

This is an unprecedented health emergency. It requires an unprecedented response.

The health and economic impact of this emergency, everything from job losses to physical isolation and illness, will have a significant flow on to our mental health and well being.

Mental health needs to be considered in every single measure that the Government announces during this emergency. We should physically distance and socially connect.

The Government has a responsibility to ensure every Australian has access to affordable mental health services.

Labor stands ready to work with the Government to look after every Australians mental health.