Feedback to Commonwealth Government COVID-19 Response Inquiry

Mental Health Australia was pleased to contribute to this inquiry into Australia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and how as a country we might increase preparedness to manage future pandemic events. This response provided initial feedback to the Inquiry’s Terms of Reference, inviting further engagement with the mental health sector.

In Australia, the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns were associated with an overall increase in psychological distress amongst in 2020 and 2021, and there was a substantial increase in use of mental health crisis and other support services.

The Australian Government is to be commended for its recognition and action to prevent mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns, through targeted investment to bolster the capacity of existing services, as well as establishment of new supports. This included rapid establishment of online/telephone support through a Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service (CMWSS), establishment of 15 HeadtoHelp hubs in Victoria, access to telehealth for mental health supports, and doubling of the number of Medicare-subsidised therapy sessions through Better Access.

Overall, experiences with these programs indicates the importance of collaboration across the sector and integration with existing mental health supports for the effectiveness of additional mental health supports during a pandemic.

Research also point to the importance of government measures to support individual and family financial security in preventing negative mental health impacts during a pandemic.

Mental Health Australia also provided research from the Embrace Project on the Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Italian, Turkish and Vietnamese Communities, and the National Mental Health Consumer and Carer Forum on Mental Health Family Carer Experiences of COVID-19 in Australia.

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