Tuesday, 27 October 2020
It's a sobering statistic that almost half of the Australian population will be affected by a mental disorder at some stage in their lifetime. The government, in conjunction with the community, has been working hard to address mental illness. It's vital that people needing help feel willing and able to seek support, and it's vital that those seeking support are able to receive it. That's why the government has stepped up to the plate, including in this budget most recently, and is delivering unprecedented funding of $5.7 billion, which will be spent on mental health and suicide prevention in the 2020-21 budget. This extra support will be delivered to key areas such as Medicare funded psychological appointments, which have increased from 10 to 20 sessions under a patient's mental healthcare plan, a change which I strongly advocated for, along with the flexibility for patients to access sessions through the telehealth system.
We know that the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected many people's mental health, especially in the state of Victoria, but indeed all around the country. A few months ago, I met with CEO of Lifeline Australia and Wentworth resident Colin Seery. Lifeline, has many here would know, is an essential mental health service providing 24-hour suicide prevention and crisis support. Colin's office told me yesterday that Australians are turning to Lifeline in greater numbers than ever. Lifeline has averaged just under 90,000 calls per month—volumes never previously seen—which equates to one call being received every 30 seconds.
Since the start of COVID-19, our youth have also been one of the most impacted groups. The Black Dog Institute reports that 75 per cent have mental health issues emerge before the age of 25. In my own electorate we're extremely fortunate to have the invaluable organisation of headspace in Bondi Junction. Headspace, as members here would know, assist young people by providing psychological services to individuals aged 12 to 25. Their services encompass a multitude of issues, such as anxiety, depression, alcohol and drug abuse, bullying and coping strategies. To ensure we continue to grow the number of centres available for our young to access, the government has committed $630 million to increase the number of headspace centres from 124 to 153 by 2022 as well as injecting much-needed funds into existing facilities to assist with the extra demands placed on them as we navigate through these uncertain times.
Another local organisation I have had the pleasure of meeting and dealing with on several occasions is Woven Threads. The director of Woven Treads, Michi Marosszeky, explained how Woven Threads aims to destigmatise mental health issues through the medium of animation and short movies. Woven Threads recently released eight episodes in a mini-series highlighting the struggles that migrants and refugees face with mental health and acceptance. Now partnering with the Black Dog Institute and AIA Australia, Woven Threads have just released another series designed to start the conversation surrounding youth mental health more generally.
This is an important issue as we emerge from COVID-19, and I commend the government for its work in addressing this issue.