Here’s How To Access Extra Mental Health Support If You’re Struggling With Lockdown

The federal government is providing extra subsidised therapy sessions for people affected by the second wave of coronavirus.

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Right now we’re living through a health crisis, an economic crisis, and a fundamental shift in how the world operates. Things are feeling pretty grim.

People are doing what they can to cope — big props to the organisers of Friday’s “Stand on your front porch and scream” event — but it’s unsurprising that the pandemic has seen a massive surge in demand for mental health services.

While the pain is being felt nationwide, Victorians have been especially hard hit — what light they saw in the tunnel in early June was extinguished by the end of the month as the state started the steep descent into its second wave. They’re now dealing with Australia’s strictest lockdown so far; an 8pm curfew, a severe restriction on movement, and more job losses as non-essential businesses shut their doors again.

Under those circumstances it’s become increasingly important to look after your mental health, and the federal government is trying to make this easier by offering an extra 10 subsidised therapy sessions for people affected by the restrictions.

How Has Mental Health Been Affected By The Pandemic?

According to Beyond Blue, calls to their service increased 66 percent year on year in April, 60 percent in May and 47 percent in June. Calls from Victoria doubled in the first two weeks of July, coinciding with the introduction of Stay at Home directions for ten Melbourne suburbs. Victorians also made up almost half of all calls received nationwide in the first week of last month.

There have also been reports of people on mental health plans “staggering” subsidised appointments to make them last throughout the pandemic period, a move that could leave people at risk.

To ease the pressure the government will provide 10 additional Medicare-subsidised psychological therapy sessions for eligible people, on top of the 10 people are usually entitled to. The additional sessions will allow those who have already used their allotted appointments to continue receiving mental health care from their psychologist, psychiatrist, GP or other eligible allied health worker.

People will be required to have a Mental Health Treatment Plan and a review with their GP to access the additional sessions.

It applies to people whose movements are restricted by a public health order at any time between July 1 2020 and March 31 2021, including those required to isolate or quarantine.

What Other Services Are Available?

Beyond Blue has established a special line for coronavirus-related support, which is available on 1800 512 348. The government has also set up a website dedicated to managing mental health during the pandemic, with a long list of resources and general advice. You can access their Head To Health website here. Crisis support is also available by calling Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Young people can contact youth mental health services like ReachOut or  headspace.

If you are part of the LGBTIQ+ community there is specialised help available through many of these services. QLife also works exclusively to support the LGBTIQ+ community and staffs a webchat from 3pm to midnight each day, and a phone line from 6pm to 10pm. You can speak to someone by calling 1800 184 527.