‘Our world has been turned upside down’: Mental health gets $60 million lifeline
Mental health services are fielding an unprecedented number of cries for help as the damage caused by the coronavirus lockdown starts to bite, with Lifeline receiving 3200 calls on Good Friday – the single busiest day in the organisation's history.
Lifeline responded to almost 90,000 calls last month – one every 30 seconds – from people wanting to talking about the COVID-19 pandemic, while Beyond Blue has predicted demand for its services will soar by 30 per cent by June.
Premier Daniel Andrews and Mental Health Minister Martin Foley announced a $60 million mental health package on Sunday. Credit:Paul Jeffers
To deal with the spike in demand for mental health services, the Victorian government on Sunday announced a one-off $59.4 million package to bolster the sector's ability to respond.
"Our world as we know it has been turned upside down," Mental Health Minister Martin Foley said.
"And that has come at a time when our mental health system was already under enormous strain and stress."
More than half the people who called Lifeline in the past week sought help due to coronavirus, with some worried for their, or their family's health, and others concerned about the economic impact of the crisis.
The funding comes at a critical time for mental health providers that are facing an increased demand, but strict stage-3 restrictions meant they are unable to raise revenue through traditional channels.
Lifeline had to close its 250 retail stores and cancel training programs, book fairs and fundraising events.
Chief executive Colin Seery said the Andrews government's $2.1 million boost to the organisation would help make up the revenue shortfall, and allow it to employ more staff.
He said Lifeline received 3197 calls on Good Friday, making it the busiest day in the organisation's history, when it usually fields about 2500 calls this time of the year.
"The mental health challenges are twofold: one is the impact of coronavirus on employment, relationships, isolation," Mr Seery said.
"The other aspect is the anxiety caused by the virus itself: either people worried about their individual health, or the health of people they care about."
The $59.4 million package includes funding to start the first phase of the rollout of 170 acute mental health beds, a key recommendation of the Royal Commission into Victoria's Mental Health System, as well as money for service providers with the capability to offer mental health help via telephone and video.
The state will also provide phones and extra data to vulnerable and high-risk people so they stay engaged with services, and fund a range of specific initiatives to help veterans, seniors, new mums, Aboriginal people, multicultural groups, the LGBTIQ community, people with eating disorders and victims of family violence.
"We want to make sure that we don't lose people through the cracks of people staying away from mental health services," Mr Foley said.
"Today as we know is Easter Sunday and we're in the middle of the Passover festival as well. So today really is that opportunity to reflect on the wellbeing and the support that our communities need for a better future.
"Today is very much an opportunity when we look to renewal and rebirth and coming back together as a community."
Beyond Blue chief executive Georgie Harman said: "Like the coronavirus itself, the mental health effects flowing from this crisis won't discriminate.
"We are already seeing how this pandemic is affecting mental health and wellbeing, from those already living with depression and anxiety, and those who support them, to people who have never struggled before," Ms Harman said.
Premier Daniel Andrews said the multimillion-dollar package was in "recognition of the fact that COVID-19 is presenting real, substantial challenges to our mental health system".
If you or anyone you know needs support call Lifeline 131 114, or beyondblue 1300 224 636.
Sign up to our Coronavirus Update newsletter
Get our Coronavirus Update newsletter for the day’s crucial developments at a glance, the numbers you need to know and what our readers are saying. Sign up to The Sydney Morning Herald’s newsletter here and The Age’s here.
Source: Read Full Article