Federal government announces $1m mental health clinic for the ACT under Head to Health program

Senator Zed Seselja warns Canberrans will continue to face mental health challenges as they emerge from lockdown. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong
Senator Zed Seselja warns Canberrans will continue to face mental health challenges as they emerge from lockdown. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Canberrans will have access to a new mental health service on Monday as the territory emerges from its gruelling lockdown.

Psychologists have warned of a mental health crisis facing Australia - dubbed the 'shadow pandemic' - after COVID-19 plunged millions into isolation, devastating businesses and limiting social interaction.

And after the ACT exited its longest and harshest lockdown, a $1 million pop-up mental health clinic in the ACT will open its doors on Monday, under the federal government's Head to Health program.

Mimicking similar models established in NSW and Victoria, patients will be assessed and receive support via video and telephone.

Socially-distanced face-to-face services will also be available if recommended by a clinician from November 1. The clinic will operate until June next year.

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Liberal Senator for the ACT Zed Seselja warned Canberrans would continue to face mental health challenges as the territory emerged from its nine-week lockdown.

"These are extraordinary times and the Morrison government recognised very quickly that the mental health burden of the COVID-19 pandemic across the country and here in the ACT was of great concern," he said.

Residents will be able to call a dedicated number - 1800 595 212 - to speak to a mental health professional, who will direct them to the most appropriate support. That will include psychologists, mental health nurses, social workers, and other professionals with mental health experience.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the facility would provide an extra layer of support to GPs and hospitals overloaded with mental health admissions during the pandemic.

"Mental health is a key part of Australia's pandemic response and the current restrictions across the country have been taking a toll on the mental health and wellbeing of Australians, including those in the ACT," he said.

Data from the Australian National University in September found young adults had born the largest mental health toll from COVID-19, with 71 per cent of parents in the 15 to 18 age range reporting their child's mental health had worsened during the pandemic.

The Australian Association of Psychologists warned the nation's mental health system was "crying out" for extra support, with demand doubling during COVID-19.

Similar pop-up clinics were set up in Victoria after the state's extended lockdown in 2020, while 10 were opened in NSW in September.

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This story Canberrans to access $1 million in fresh mental health support first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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