The Federal Government has announced $48.1 million for a National Mental Health and Wellbeing Pandemic Response Plan in a move welcomed by the PSA
In a joint statement with Professor Brendan Murphy, Chief Medical Officer and Christine Morgan, CEO of the National Health Commission, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said that the investment builds on approximately $500 million for mental health and suicide prevention announced by the Government since 30 January.
This includes $64 million for suicide prevention, $74 million for preventative mental health services, and a significant proportion of the $669 million telehealth package to support MBS subsidised treatments provided by GPs, psychologists, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals.
“The Government recognises that many Australians are experiencing fear, anxiety, loneliness, financial and family stress as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures needed to contain it,” the three said.
“Supporting mental health and suicide prevention remains one of the Government’s highest priorities.”
The Plan’s three immediate priorities are data and modelling; outreach; and connectivity, they said.
The announcement includes $7.3 million for research and real-time data, $29.5 million for outreach to vulnerable communities and $11.3 million for communication and other outreach programs.
PSA National President Associate Professor Chris Freeman said this announcement would not only benefit health professionals, including pharmacists who have been on the front line during COVID-19, but all Australians.
“This has been a tough time for many Australians, including pharmacists who have continued to provide an essential service to the community throughout the entire COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
“Pharmacists working during COVID-19 have not only had to care for patients but also had to look after the safety and wellbeing of their colleagues, family and friends, as well as themselves.
“I would ask any pharmacists struggling at the moment to reach out for help.”
He highlighted that the PSA is delivering Mental Health First Aid training to Australian pharmacists and pharmacy staff to support them as they support the community.
“Pharmacists are often the first health professional people will see in a disaster,” Dr Freeman said.
“PSA is committed to equipping pharmacists and pharmacy staff to be able to identify patients who might be in need of professional mental health services and referring them to the care they need.”
Any readers who are distressed can call 1300 244 910 for anonymous and confidential support from a pharmacist colleague over the phone through the Pharmacists’ Support Service (PSS), available 8am to 11pm EST 365 days of the year.
For urgent assistance when PSS is not available, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
For 24/7 confidential incident support for employee and owner pharmacists, members can call PDL on 1300 854 838 Australia wide.