Date published: 
3 June 2021
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

ROSS STEVENSON:          

Dr Ruth Vine, Australia's Deputy Chief Medical Officer for Mental Health. Doc, good morning to you.

RUTH VINE:

Good morning.

ROSS STEVENSON:          

This is an important question in context. Are you in Melbourne or somewhere else in Australia?

RUTH VINE:

Happily, for me, I'm a Victorian and I'm in Melbourne. So, I experienced last year's lockdown and I'm in the midst of this one too.

ROSS STEVENSON:          

Because doc, I was thinking, in terms of mental health, if you were- if you had all of Australia in the same boat, might mental health be better and what makes it worse is that people in Melbourne can see that the rest of Australia is not in lockdown?

RUTH VINE:

Look, I think you're right. People always compare themselves with others. But I think if we take this in broader context, I think we can also see that Victoria's not the only state that has experienced times of lockdown. And indeed, if we compare ourselves with other countries, we're not the only country that's experienced lockdown. It's hard. I think the other thing about this lockdown is we do know from the last one- we know lots of things that are sensible to do, like planning our day, making goals achievable, keeping in contact with friends and family. And indeed, I hope people in other states who have friends in Victoria are reaching out to them. So, I think we know what to do, but that of course doesn't make it fun.

RUSSEL HOWCROFT:     

So, Dr, the most recent Victorian budget allocated more funds to mental health. Is that already being spent?

RUTH VINE:

No, of course it hasn't already been spent. I think that you'd also recall that in last year's Victorian budget, there was additional funding for mental health. And I absolutely welcome the increased funding from both the Federal Government and the Victorian Government into mental health services. But they do need to grow, they need to be sustained. And that's more than a COVID response.

ROSS STEVENSON:          

Was the money allocated in last year's budget- has that been spent?

RUTH VINE:

Much of the COVID funding has been. You'd probably recall that the COVID funding last year and again this year went to increased capacity for call lines in Beyond Blue, ReachOut, Kids Helpline. And in Victoria, we had those additional HeadtoHelp mental health clinics that were opened last September and are still functioning. So of course, some of that funding has been spent.

RUSSEL HOWCROFT:     

And Dr, over the last week, have the help lines experienced an increase in traffic?

RUTH VINE:

I understand that they have. And it's good to see that people do reach out. I hope that people are also using their local- and as I said, their community, their family, their social contacts. But yes, the increased capacity is still there and the lines have been very busy.

ROSS STEVENSON:          

Yeah, we're being told that one of those lines crashed last night. Have you heard anything on those lines?

RUTH VINE:

No, I haven't heard that. I would always say to people that there are a number of avenues for help. And if lines are crashing, there's also the Head to Health online platform that provides all sorts of information.

RUSSEL HOWCROFT:     

So, Dr, if one is concerned about a friend or a family member about their mental health, what should you do? What's the first action?

RUTH VINE:

Well, look, I think the first action is to reach out to them and to check in with them and give them time to talk about what they might be experiencing or concerns or fears or worries that they might have. And the second thing, having done that, is to reassure them that there are avenues for help available and to provide some of those numbers. And always- there's always general practitioners. We increased the number of Better Access sessions available, and that continues I think to June 22. So there's both online, phone numbers, and of course our general practitioner and other practitioners available.

But the first thing I'd say is give people time to talk. Make contact with them. Make a plan to- if you can, within the rules, go for a walk with someone.

ROSS STEVENSON:          

Good on you. Nice to chat. Dr Ruth Vine, Australia's Deputy Chief Medical Officer for Mental Health who is in Melbourne.

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