Media event date: 
6 May 2020
Date published: 
6 May 2020
Media type: 
Media release
Audience: 
General public

Regional Australians are encouraged to access the additional mental health and wellbeing services on offer during the COVID-19 pandemic to help them get through uncertain times.

Federal Regional Health Minister Mark Coulton urged people to reach out to their GP, mental allied health practitioner or get online to access help, if they were struggling.

“Right across rural, regional and remote Australia, there is a lot of extra pressure on individuals, families and communities—but help is available,” Minister Coulton said.

“I have a simple message for people living in rural, regional and remote Australia—reach out for help if you feel stress or anxiety is getting on top of you.

“There is a range of mental health services available which people can access, whether it is via telehealth or by face-to-face, it’s vitally important that people continue to seek treatment for illnesses and to manage their health.”

Minister Coulton said patients with a Mental Health Treatment Plan can access Medicare rebates for up to 10 individual and 10 group allied mental health services per year with an appropriately qualified GP, psychologist, social worker or occupational therapist.

“Regional doctors, nurses and other health professionals are also under additional pressure as they care for and provide services to our communities, and I urge them to keep in mind their own health and safety as they work through this pandemic,” Minister Coulton said.

“Our regional health professionals continue to provide an essential service to rural, regional and remote communities through COVID-19 and we need to ensure they remain well and healthy too.”

Minister Coulton said the Australian Government has invested $1.45 billion in 31 Primary Health Networks across Australia to plan and commission mental health and suicide prevention for their individual communities.

“This flexible approach ensures services can be targeted and tailored to meet local needs, and improve outcomes for those with or at risk of mental illness or suicide,” Minister Coulton said.

“We have also expanded psychological telehealth options to limit travelling vast distances to see your health professional during this time, when people are encouraged to minimise travel.”

Minister Coulton said the Federal Government’s $74 million COVID-19 mental health package included funding for dedicated phone and online resources.

“These additional services give regional Australians access to support when they need it, regardless of where they live,” he said.

“We have also expanded Medicare-subsidised telehealth services for all Australians to ensure people still get the care they need. Now is not the time to let your medical conditions, including mental health, go untreated.

“If you have a medical condition or an issue arises that you think you may need to seek medical advice about, I strongly encourage you to call your GP or specialist and make an appointment.

“Regional Australians are doing a great job of stopping the spread and COVID-19 positive case numbers remain low, therefore it’s perfectly acceptable they seek face-to-face support from local health services.”

The Australian Government funds a range of organisations where people can raise concerns, whether they to COVID-19, the ongoing drought or the impact of the recent bushfires.

Minister Coulton said further telephone and online support is available from the following organisations:

  • eheadspace (for people aged 12 to 25 and their families) — call 1800 650 890 or chat online
  • Beyond Blue (anyone feeling depressed or anxious) — call 1300 22 4636 or chat online
  • Black Dog Institute (anyone affected by mood disorders) — online help
  • SANE Australia (people living with a mental illness) — call 1800 18 7263 or chat online
  • This Way Up Clinic (anyone with stress, anxiety and depression) — online courses
  • MindSpot (people with anxiety and depression) — call 1800 61 44 34 or online screening.
  • Pregnancy Birth Baby (telephone, video call and online counselling for parents — call 1800 882 436
  • My Aged Care (aged care services provided by the Australian government) — call 1800 200 422

The Government’s digital mental health gateway, Head to Health is an online health hub for information, advice, online counselling, treatment and crisis support.