Wednesday, 21 October 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Health. Noting that today is headspace Day, will the minister please update the House on how the Morrison-McCormack government is supporting young Australians, particularly those living in Victoria, with increased access to vital mental health services and support?
I want to thank the member for Nicholls for what is a very important question on National headspace Day. I'm pleased that we've been able to support the youth in his electorate with headspace in Shepparton. Work is being completed now on bringing headspace to Echuca, as it is in more places around the country. We've gone from, I believe, 56 headspaces across Australia when we came to government, to 124 now, and we're on track for 153 over the course of the next two years. We do this because, even in the best of years, youth mental health is a national challenge. We know that, in any one year, 1 in 4 young Australians—560,000 young Australians—are struggling with the challenge of mental health. It's in every one of our electorates, and virtually every one of our families will have been connected to it over time.
Against that background, it's been made harder this year by the challenges of COVID. What we've seen is that MBS items for mental health over the last month have increased by 14 per cent nationally, but by 31 per cent in Victoria, where things are so much harder still. In particular for young people we've seen, with Kids Helpline in Victoria, a 24 per cent higher rate of utilisation over the last month than the rest of the nation. But perhaps most concerning are the latest figures I've been given by the Department of Health. There has been an increase of 40 per cent in presentations for eating disorders by young people in Victoria over the six weeks to the end of September. And that's an agonising condition.
Headspace is a fundamental and important part of what we do to protect young people. The budget has $640 million to assist with headspace support over the next four years. With eating disorders, we know that we've massively increased the number of Medicare sessions for eating disorders, with the first dedicated eating disorder MBS items. That was one of the first things the Prime Minister did in coming to this office.
In addition to that, we're establishing eating disorder clinics around the country, with a $70 million investment. But particularly in Victoria now, we know that the mental health challenges facing young people—the risk of anxiety and depression, and fear about the economic situation—play into their concerns. That's why we're investing $27 million in 15 new Head to Health clinics ,which have already been established, within three weeks; and now we are investing $17 million, through the budget, in Victoria with a mental health focus for all Victorians but especially for young people with funds for Kids Helpline and for eating disorders. We're in this together, we're going to fight through this together, we're going to get through it in Victoria and we're going to support our young Australians.