A mental health expert has called for vulnerable young people to be at the centre of the government’s pandemic mental health plan.
The Federal Government committed $48 million to a mental health plan on May 15 to help vulnerable people in the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The plan includes $29.5 million for direct services to vulnerable people, $7.3 million to collect more data on the problem and $10.4 million for an awareness campaign.
RMIT University lecturer in Global, Urban and Social Studies Dr Kathryn Daley says the plan is a good first step but more needs to be done to reach all people who are struggling with mental health problems.
“The $48 million dollar package is a first step in attending to the immediate and ongoing mental health crisis associated with COVID-19,” she says.
“However, only $29.5 million is going to direct services, which will only begin to address the problem forecast by the National Mental Health Commission.”
Young people hit hardest
Grok previously reported on the economic and social damage to young people’s employment and wages due to the pandemic, and Dr Daley agrees this damage has left young people especially vulnerable to mental health problems.
“Young people are especially hard hit by the current economic situation. They are likely to have been employed in the industries most affected and in turn lost their jobs,” she says.
She says young people who are homeless or don’t have access to technology are at even further risk of having mental health challenges.
“Those on the margins are suffering in ways that we don’t readily think about,” she says.
“While online support is available, many of those sleeping rough don’t have access to technology and this help.”
Dr Daley says online programs and direct services like support workers, who have been unable to work with people in need because of social distancing, should be prioritised in the new plan.
“Outreach workers have been unable to provide visits, which means that the most vulnerable members of our community have been without support,” she says.
“Extended periods without contact to support workers does not bode well for the mental and physical wellbeing of these people.”
Young people in institutions like care homes and prison are another vulnerable group, according to Dr Daley.
“Some groups have no control of the protections available to them,” she says.
“Those in prison and those in state care are subject to the arrangements placed upon them.”
Dr Daley says if money is going to be spent on an awareness campaign, the government needs to make sure enough is being invested in direct mental health services.
“If $10.4 million is to be committed to an awareness campaign, we need to ensure that services are adequately resourced to support those who will need help.”
The mental health funding has come as Lifeline WA reports a 51% increase in recent calls from Western Australians suffering from social isolation and other problems brought on by the pandemic, marking their busiest period in history.
States like Victoria have announced their own plans to tackle mental health during the recovery from COVID-19, and the other states are expected to follow their lead.
Where to go if you need help
The COVID-19 pandemic is also a mental health crisis. Social isolation and economic downturn has left many people vulnerable to mental health problems. If you or anyone you know needs help, you can contact the following services:
Lifeline on 13 11 14
Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800
MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978
Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467
Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636
Headspace on 1800 650 890
Care Leavers Australasia Network (CLAN) on 1800 008 774