Government confirms spike in mental health services during pandemic

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The federal government has confirmed a 15 per cent increase in the number of Medicare-subsidised mental health services delivered during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Health minister Greg Hunt said Medicare had funded 7.4 million mental health services since mid-March.

The spike in services has been particularly significant during Victoria's second pandemic lockdown.

In the state, between September and October, the number of Medicare-funded mental health items has increased by 31 per cent compared to the same period last year.

At the same time, the use of Beyond Blue’s Support line was 77 per cent higher in Victoria than in the rest of the country, while use of Lifeline was 16 per cent higher and Kids Helpline 24 per cent higher than the rest of the country.

Victorian state data also shows a 33 per cent increase in child and youth contacts in community mental health services for eating disorders.

"This data is of significant concern," said Mr Hunt.

"We encourage all Australians, and especially Victorians, to continue to stay on top of their mental and physical health and wellbeing wherever possible throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond."

The minister said the federal government has made an additional 10 Medicare-subsidised individual psychological therapy sessions available each calendar year through a $100.8 million investment that was announced in the 2020–21 Budget. 

Mr Hunt said, "The Government has also provided more than $500 million extra funding to rapidly scale up other vital mental health services to help Australians deal with lockdowns, the challenges of isolation, fear for loved ones, and concerns about employment."

He added, "We encourage everyone to make use of the many services available, but also to connect with others to seek and provide support. Even if we are required to stay physically distant, staying socially connected is a vital part of looking after our mental health and wellbeing. We can all play a part in keeping each other safe and well."