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Mental Health News

Australian Government Stage 4 Mental Health Support - 03/08/2020

Date published: 
3 August 2020
Media type: 
General public


Today is one of the hardest days in Victoria's history. In terms of health for the families that have been affected, with the lives of their loved ones, or those that have been infected.

In terms of the economy, small business owners who will face new challenges, people focusing on their jobs, their income, their mortgages, or their business overdrafts.

And, of course, for mental health, for today, this will be a very significant challenge for so many Victorians. The news of an extended lockdown, the news of an expanded lockdown, this will weigh heavily on many.

We will be, as a consequence, in a decision signed off by the Prime Minister this afternoon, expanding the Better Access psychological program under Medicare, providing an additional 10 sessions, and I'll have more to say on that in a minute.

This is all part of the need and the supports for resilience. We will need our resilience more than ever before, but I see that resilience.

I see it in the faces of mums and dads, of small business owners, of the people working in the Mount Martha IGA only 300 metres from here and so many other shops, people who are getting on with life, who are making everything that they can do to help this situation be better, and I want to thank and acknowledge them and say this: that although we need this resilience, I believe we have this resilience.

You can never underestimate Australians and never underestimate Victorians, and at this time, they will rise to the most difficult of challenges.

We know also, though, that this community spirit is also having to face a deep and sustained community transmission. The virulence of COVID-19 is shown from the fact that from most probably a single case in hotel quarantine, we’ve seen this spread right across Melbourne and into so many parts of Victoria.

One single case, most probably, from one source in hotel quarantine, which has spread out. And so, the medical expert panel, the AHPPC, met today to consider the epidemiological or case advice from Victoria and the proposals for action, and they determined that, sadly, more action was necessary.

They accepted Victoria's advice, and that's been conveyed to the Prime Minister and myself and other members of the Government. And therefore, we recognise that the further measures announced by the Premier are regrettably necessary.

Regrettably necessary. In particular, we support them with a heavy heart, but we do so because they will help save and protect lives in Victoria, and as the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paul Kelly, said to me, they will help protect lives outside of Victoria across Australia.

That unless we can protect one state, we can never protect all states. We remain a single, contiguous land mass. We remain one country, one community. And so, these steps that are being taken are regrettably necessary to protect one, but also to protect all.

We now know there are nearly 18 million cases across the world, growing to 20 million, and every day more lives are lost in the thousands around the world. In Australia, the advice I have shortly before joining you was that there are now 17,921 cases and very sadly 208 lives lost.

Four hundred and eight people in hospital, 46 in intensive care, and 30 on ventilation. The supplies, the resources, the facilities for that hospitalisation remains strong. Remains strong. And that's a testament to our health workers, our health system, and all those who help prepare for such an outbreak, although we hoped it would never be necessary.

In terms of Commonwealth support, with regards to the Australian Defence Force there are now approximately 1500 members on operation in Victoria assisting with the response to coronavirus.

Three hundred and fifteen are now involved in helping the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services in the contact tracing program, either within the central program or on foot, going from house to house, assisting the police in their work, in their outreach, in their checking, in their contact.

And that's a fundamentally important task. That will save lives. The police are also involved, along with the ADF, in isolation and checkpoint work, and the ADF is specifically assisting with testing programs in different places around the state.

And so, these are incredibly important masks. In addition to that, I'm advised that the ADF will assist in Geelong with Opal Aged Care. Up to 12 ADF members will support the current health services in an outbreak there for up to three weeks. Simple important work saving lives and protecting lives.

With regards to aged care, our AUSMAT teams have been on the ground in Cumberland Lodge and now Kalyna Aged Care(*) and Florence Aged Care. Of today's numbers, 47 aged care residents are within the 671 Victorians who have been diagnosed positive, and so we focus particularly on them.

Our Aged Care Response Centre has now been established as a joint partnership with Victoria, and that is focusing very heavily on immediate identification of cases, immediate testing of staff and of all residents in facilities, and ensuring that we have workforce and response. It's, again, life-saving work.

But one of the things that I particularly want to focus on today is that with this lockdown, there will be mental health challenges. I want to say that it's normal. It's understandable for somebody to be feeling depressed or anxious, isolated, and that we understand, and there is support.

Already there have been three rounds of mental health support, including Telehealth, which has seen over 22 million consultations, a large proportion of which have been for mental health or psychological support, and over $1.25 billion invested into that.

Support services specifically, such as Beyond Blue and Lifeline, and support for Headspace, support for communication to culturally and linguistically diverse communities. But we think we need more because this is a deeply stressful time.

And I want to reach out to all people in different forms of lockdown – it could be parents who live as a single parent with small children in a flat facing isolation, facing economic hardship; older Australians who may be fearful or alone, and to say there is support, and there’s belief.

That support today is being extended with the expansion of 10 additional Better Access psychological support services. These will be available for anybody who has used their initial 10 services in a lockdown area under a public health order, and that will of course apply right across Victoria, and if more areas in Australia were to face this, it would apply to them.

So this expansion of services is a $7.3 million investment, but it's not the money. It's the support for individuals who are facing additional challenges. And we say to you that it is difficult, but there is mutual community support.

And so I want to finish with this notion, that we draw on our resilience as a people, a country, as a community. It’s about our individual actions in supporting others. What we do with regards to the distancing, the masks, which are important, but they are no substitute for maintaining that distance.

As the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paul Kelly, has said again and again, the disease travels with people, and when one person is in proximity with another, that's when it can transfer. So distance keeps people safe.

Distance keeps people alive. And these are so counterintuitive but so vital. And then our second area of support is reaching out to each other, whether it is doing the shopping for an isolated senior who may be a neighbour, whether it's getting on the telephone, calling people.

This is the moment to be our strongest, best community. We're going to get through this. I know that. I believe that. These measures today are beyond what any of us could ever have imagined our community would face. But they are with us because we have had an outbreak in Victoria, one state in this great country, but now we have to go through this.

Having said that, with all of the actions that we have taken, with all of the restrictions that are now in place, the medical advice is that we will get through this and our advice and our message to all Australians, especially to Victorians, is: as difficult as this may be, this is the moment where we rise to be our best selves, and we will get through this. Thank you. I'm happy to take questions, starting with Tamsin.

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