“They are not alone”: Victoria announces $60m mental health support package

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Victoria’s mental health system will receive a nearly $60 million boost, following an announcement it “wasn’t fit for purpose” by the state’s Mental Health Minister.

Speaking to the press on Sunday, Minister Martin Foley said the $59.7 million funding boost to mental health services was hoped to keep people with mental illness away from already under pressure emergency departments.

“Emergency departments are busy at the best of times, particularly now in the height of a pandemic,” Foley said, as reported by ABC News.

“We want to make sure that we keep those people who need support for mental illness with the support that they need in the community.

“And that’s the main focus of today’s package – how to deal with the surge in demand.”

It follows news there has been a 33 per cent increase in young people – and a 10 per cent increase in all people – presenting to emergency departments for intentional self-harm over the past six weeks, compared to the same time in 2019.

A 19 per cent increase in presentations for urgent and emergency mental health services has also been recorded over the past six weeks.

At least 11 per cent more people are contacting services for inpatient or residential program care, compared to the same time in 2019.

There has been a 29 per cent increase in mental health support by telephone. Furthermore, there have been an additional 2,600 video and teleconference sessions per week – up from less than 100 a week in January.

In announcing the package, Premier Daniel Andrews said: “We know Victorians are resilient, but we have never faced a crisis quite like this one and I know there are a lot of people out there doing it tough right now.

“We want them to know that they are not alone.

“We’ll stand by all Victorians as we get through this – by delivering more beds, more community services and more specialised help for those in need.”

The new funding will strengthen the surge capacity of clinical and community mental health services across Victoria to cope with additional presentations and reduce pressure on hospital emergency departments.

It will also fast-track delivery of more new public acute mental health beds recommended by the Royal Commission into Victoria’s mental health system, boost community mental health services and accelerate the roll-out of the Hospital Outreach Post-Suicidal Engagement (HOPE) program.

The Victorian government will also offer $250,000 for a counselling service for nurses, midwives and personal care workers.

Minster for Mental Health Martin Foley said: “Coronavirus is hitting everyone hard, but some much harder than others.

“This package will provide further support for people from all walks of life experiencing anxiety and distress during this unprecedented period of uncertainty and isolation.

“We were already well on our way to implementing some of the key recommendations from our Royal Commission, and this massive funding boost will fast-track this work to ensure we have the infrastructure and support systems in place as demand on our mental health system increases.”

If you or someone you know needs help, you can call Lifeline Australia (13 11 14), Beyond Blue (1800 512 348), or Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800).

In addition, Travel Weekly has created a support network on Facebook called the Travel Trade Life Raft that not only provides relevant and up-to-date advice and resources for anyone working in the travel industry, but also a safe space for people to share their stories and learn from one another.

We also encourage those who become a member of the group to post shout-outs to people in the industry doing good in this time of need, questions you would like answered and, of course, check in with one another! If you’re not feeling okay, chances are you’re not alone.

For those interested in joining, click HERE or search ‘Travel Trade Life Raft’ on Facebook.

Featured image source: iStock/Andrii Zastrozhnov

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