Introduction

The Australian Government recognises the significant impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the mental health and wellbeing of many Australians.

This page provides a central point of information on how the Government has responded to support Australians to manage their mental health and wellbeing during this time.

You will find information on the additional funding announced by the Australian Government, information about and a link to the National Mental Health and Wellbeing Pandemic Response Plan agreed by National Cabinet, and links to webinars hosted by the Department of Health which have been a critical part in keeping the mental health and other sector stakeholders up to date about the Government’s response efforts.

There are also links to some resources to help support mental health during this time.

Australian Government Funding

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in Australia and introduction of restrictions including physical distancing measures, the Australian Government has announced additional funding to support the mental health and wellbeing of Australians both during and after the pandemic.

  • The Government is rolling out a COVID-19 mental health campaign How’s your head today? to urge people to prioritise their mental health, raise awareness about how to identify when something is wrong, and encourage people to seek help.


    The Minister for Health, the Hon Greg Hunt launched the campaign, which will appear on TV, radio, in shopping centres and venues, online and through social media.


    The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant effect on the mental health of many people across the country, particularly in Victoria. Help services such as Lifeline and Beyond Blue have experienced a significant increase in the number of people seeking help, and for more complex issues.


    The campaign aims to encourage Australians, whether they have an existing mental illness or have experienced challenges as a result of the pandemic, to seek support and treatment by visiting headtohealth.gov.au. The collection of campaign resources including videos, radio and posters are available here.
  • Victorians will now have access to additional mental health support with 15 new dedicated mental health clinics opening to the public.


    The Minister for Health, the Hon Greg Hunt, announced the location of the HeadtoHelp clinics, nine of which will be located in Greater Melbourne and six in regional Victoria. The locations are:


    Greater Melbourne: Berwick, Frankston, Officer, Hawthorn, Yarra Junction, West Heidelberg, Broadmeadows, Wyndham Vale, Brunswick East.
    Regional Victoria: Warragul, Sale, Bendigo, Wodonga, Sebastopol and Norlane.

    The new clinics are a free service and for the next 12 months will provide a place within the community for people to access mental health care as early and as conveniently as possible.


    Anyone concerned about their mental health can visit these clinics in person or call 1800 595 212 to talk to a health professional or connect to a service near them. Information on how to access the HeadtoHelp clinics can also be found at headtohelp.org.au.


    In addition to the clinics, $5 million in funding is being provided to enhance existing digital and phone services for specific groups that are experiencing significant challenges during the restrictions in Victoria.


    These service providers include The Butterfly Foundation, Eating Disorders Families Australia (EDFA), the National LGBTI Health Alliance (for the Q-Life service), Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia (PANDA), and the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service (for the Yarning SafeNStrong helpline).
  • On 17 August 2020, the Prime Minister announced additional $31.9 million to support mental health services in Victoria. The funding includes:
    • $26.9 million to establish 15 dedicated mental health clinics across Victoria, with nine clinics in Greater Melbourne and six in regional Victoria. The clinics will be located at existing GP clinics, headspace centres or other community sites where people usually access general health care (locations to be announced). The clinics will support GPs by providing access to multidisciplinary teams of mental health workers, including psychologists, mental health nurses, social workers, and alcohol and drug workers, and will provide on-site mental health support, but may also arrange referrals to more intensive mental health care or social supports if needed. This could include referral into emergency care or into an in-patient facility in a private hospital. Specific locations of these new clinics are to be announced.

    • $5 million to enhance digital and phone services for specific groups that are experiencing significant challenges during the additional restrictions. This includes those living with an eating disorder where physical isolation at home can greatly exacerbate their mental illness. The funding will ensure services such as the Eating Disorders National Support line, 1800 ED HOPE, have the capacity to provide the specialist support needed. $2 million of the $5m is to evaluate the impact of this investment and target any emerging mental health needs.
  • On 6 August 2020, the Prime Minister announced $12 million to support mental health services in Victoria. The funding includes:
    • $5 million for headspace to increase outreach services to young people in the community who are in severe distress
    • $2.5 million for Beyond Blue to expand capacity, extend counsellor webchat hours to operate 24/7, and boost the ability to refer people with severe and complex needs for five additional sessions
    • $2.5 million for Lifeline to deal with more calls from Victoria
    • $2 million for Kids Helpline to increase its call answer rate and service responsiveness, deal with additional demand for services, and link to further support
    Minister Hunt also announced on 6 August 2020, a $13.4 million investment in PHNs to supplement existing supports available through the Commonwealth psychosocial support programs. This includes $2.6 million to Victorian PHNs to assist Victorians with severe mental illness whose access to psychosocial supports has been impacted by COVID-19.
  • On 2 August 2020, the Australian Government announced ten additional Medicare subsidised psychological therapy sessions for people impacted by further restrictions due to the pandemic.

    The additional Medicare subsidised sessions will allow people in eligible areas who have used their 10 sessions to continue to receive mental health care from their psychologist, psychiatrist, GP or other eligible allied health worker.

    The new items will apply to people subject to public health orders restricting their movement within the state or territory issued at any time from 1 July 2020 to 31 March 2021, and to people who are required to isolate or quarantine under public health orders.

    Patients will be required to have a Mental Health Treatment Plan and a review with their GP to access the additional sessions. This measure commenced on Friday 7 August and will be available until 31 March 2021.

    More information is available on the Department of Health website
  • On 15 May 2020, the Prime Minister, the Hon Scott Morrison MP announced $48.1 million as the Australian Government’s contribution to form the National Mental Health and Wellbeing Pandemic Response Plan. The National Cabinet endorsed the Plan developed by the National Mental Health Commission in consultation with states and territories.

    The Government is providing $48.1 million to support the plan’s priorities:
    • build our national capability to monitor, anticipate and react to the pandemic’s mental health impacts
    • enable targeted support for groups in the community that have been particularly vulnerable during the pandemic
    • support strong pathways of care with improved service links and coordination.
    The Media Release for this funding package announcement can be found here.

    The Fact Sheet for this funding package announcement can be found here.
  • On 29 March 2020, the Prime Minister the Hon. Scott Morrison MP announced an initial $74 million for mental health support including:
    • Establishment of dedicated coronavirus digital resources and a 24x7 phone counselling service led by Beyond Blue and staffed by accredited mental health professionals to help people experiencing stress or anxiety associated with the impacts of the pandemic, such as health concerns, employment changes, business closures or family pressures. Beyond Blue has established this service which is called Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service.
    • Funding to bolster critical phone and online support services, including Lifeline and Kids Helpline, ensuring they can meet anticipated increased demand and providing job opportunities for Australians to be trained as counsellors. Extra funding will bolster other existing services including digital peer-support to people with urgent, severe and complex mental illness who may be experiencing additional distress.
    • A dedicated mental health and wellbeing program for frontline health workers will provide online and phone services, giving frontline workers support when and where they need it. The Essential Network for Health Professionals (TEN) is now available at Black Dog Institute. Smiling Mind is also providing frontline health workers with free access to their premium App which offers practical tools to support good mental health.
    • The Community Visitors Scheme will be expanded, with funding for extra staff and volunteers to ensure older people receiving aged care support, stay connected on line and by phone even though they may be physically separated from others.
    • headspace will expand its digital work and study service, to help younger Australians stay on track in their education and training and prepare them for the workforce.
    • For First Australians, new culturally appropriate mental health and wellbeing resources will be developed by Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) across a range of platforms.
    • Increased funding for Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA) to bolster its free helpline (1300 726 306) and produce new toolkits and resources to support expecting and new parents cope with increased stress and anxiety.
    • Funding to continue to deliver psychosocial support to Commonwealth community mental health clients for a further 12 months. This will allow additional time for people with severe and complex mental illness to complete their applications and testing for support under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
    • A targeted mental health communications campaign as part of the broader Coronavirus communications campaign. This will include wide-ranging advertising, social media engagement, education and awareness initiatives to keep the conversation going about mental health as the full impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic emerge.
    • Continued expansion of the resources provided on the Government’s digital mental health gateway Head to Health, giving people access to trusted mental health information and services.
    • Extra investment in the Australian Psychological Society’s Find a Psychologist website, to ensure people can connect with a psychologist if they need one, no matter where they are around Australia.
    These measures complement the expansion of telehealth services to ensure that people can continue to access their mental health treatment services by videoconferencing or telephone.

    The Media Release for the 29 March 2020 announcement can be found here. A fact sheet, Supporting the mental health of Australians through the Coronavirus pandemic, can be found here.

National Mental Health and Wellbeing Pandemic Response Plan

The Plan acknowledges the significant challenges for Australia posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and identifies three core objectives:

  1. Meet the mental health and wellbeing needs of all Australians to reduce the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in the short and long term;
  2. Outline seven key principles and 10 key priorities to inform the jurisdictions as they respond to the challenges of COVID-19 during the response and recovery from the pandemic; and
  3. Define governance, coordination and implementation requirements across jurisdictions to facilitate informed planning and decision making.

The full plan can be found here.

The Australian Government’s contribution will focus on:

  • More immediate monitoring and modelling of the mental health impact of COVID-19, including boosting national capability in monitoring, anticipating and reacting to mental health impacts of the pandemic; expanding the national self-harm and suicide monitoring systems; and investment in the National Suicide Prevention Research Fund.
  • By supporting services being more accessible in homes, workplaces, aged care, schools and other community sites – with a specific focus on vulnerable groups – aged care, carers and indigenous mental health support.
  • More connectivity through improved service linkage and coordination, including a national mental health communication campaign to manage anxiety and encourage mental wellbeing and systems to guide the onward care of people contacting federal digital and telephone support services by connecting them to appropriate local services that provide outreach care in the home.

Webinars for stakeholders

The Department has been conducting webinars to update stakeholders and practitioners on the Government’s COVID-19 response. As well as providing the latest updates, the panel focus their discussion on telehealth and answer questions and comments.

You can view the most recent webinar here.

You can view previous webinars and download transcripts here.

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Page last updated 16th June 2020