House debates

Monday, 30 August 2021

Questions without Notice

COVID-19: Mental Health

2:32 pm

Photo of Melissa McIntoshMelissa McIntosh (Lindsay, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

[by video link] My question is to the Minister for Health and Aged Care. Will the minister please outline to the House the importance of Australia's national plan for COVID and how this plan will assist with the mental health of all Australians, including children?

2:33 pm

Photo of Greg HuntGreg Hunt (Flinders, Liberal Party, Minister for Health and Aged Care) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Lindsay. The very first event that I was involved with with her was in fact a focus on mental health for children and young people in her electorate, shortly after she came to office and joined this parliament. So her commitment is deep, real and fundamental.

We know the challenges of this pandemic. We see them around the world and we see them in Australia. We see them in any place where there are lockdowns. We know that, with over half a million cases a day on average—and it's heading well north of that—and with over 9,000 lives lost a day on average at the moment, its impact is ravaging countries around the world in the midst of a pandemic, the likes of which we haven't seen for a hundred years.

On that front, the first thing is the national plan and hope. As with any mental health challenge, it's for people to know that there is a pathway through. To know that there is a future and to know, to quote the Doherty institute, that there is 'light at the end of the tunnel' is fundamentally important. On that front, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The fact is that we've seen, as the Prime Minister said, 379,000 vaccinations over the weekend and we're now at 19,085,000 vaccinations. Each day in the last week was a record for that respective day, and last week was higher than any week, on a per capita basis, for vaccinations delivered than in either the United Kingdom or the United States during the course of their rollouts.

All of these things are coming together to give people real and fundamental hope. Very significantly, our general practices—through their own practices, through the Commonwealth vaccination clinics and through the Aboriginal medical services—have now delivered over 10 million vaccines. To add to what the Prime Minister said with regard to AstraZeneca, there have been over six million first doses for Australians. All of these things give hope and are fundamentally important.

At the same time, in order to support mental health, we have invested very significantly. We have invested over half a million dollars directly in mental health support—in particular, support for Kids Helpline, headspace, Beyond Blue and Lifeline. But, almost inconceivably, during the current lockdown 340 Victorian youths are being admitted to hospital each week with mental health concerns. That tears all of us apart. The pathway through means that they have to have that light at the end of the tunnel. That's why the plan's so important. But it's also about getting kids back into playgrounds and getting kids back into schools. These things are fundamental for their education but, above all else, they are fundamental for their health and their mental health.