Looking after your mental health during coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions
The impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, physical distancing and isolation can make us feel anxious, stressed and worried. Read about what you can do to look after your mental wellbeing and look out for those around you as we tackle these challenges together.
Mental health support
Additional COVID-19 MBS mental health support
From 9 October 2020, the Australian Government will make available 10 additional Medicare subsidised psychological therapy sessions each calendar year. These extra sessions are for people experiencing severe or enduring mental health impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, and the measures needed to contain it.
The Better Access Pandemic Support measure was previously only available to people in areas where public health orders restricted movement within the state or territory. From 9 October 2020 the Australian Government is removing this requirement. The expanded measure will be available until 30 June 2022.
To access the additional sessions under the Better Access to Psychiatrists, Psychologists and General Practitioners through the Medicare Benefits Schedule (Better Access) initiative, you must:
- have a Mental Health treatment plan;
- have used the initial 10 individual Better Access sessions in the calendar year you sought a referral; and
- receive a referral for the additional 10 sessions from your reviewing GP, psychiatrist or paediatrician (reviewing practitioner).
You will need to see your GP, psychiatrist or paediatrician (reviewing practitioner). Your practitioner can review your Mental Health Treatment plan or use another consultation item to refer you for the additional sessions.
Your practitioner will decide how many sessions you can receive in your referral. You are able to access up to 10 additional sessions each calendar year from 9 October 2020 until 30 June 2022. This is a total of up to 20 individual sessions each calendar year. If you do not use all 10 additional sessions in the calendar year you received the referral, unused sessions will carry over to the new calendar year. If they carry over to a new calendar year, you can use them without a new referral.
For further information, public information and frequently asked questions factsheets are available in the ‘Coronavirus (COVID-19) resources for the general public’ section of this website.
Why it’s important to look after your mental health during COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly changed the way we live. To help keep us safe, it is likely that our lives will be different for a while.
When we aren’t able to see our friends and family regularly, it can be harder to keep on top of how we’re feeling.
Being aware of how you’re feeling and knowing what you can do to look after your mental wellbeing is an important part of staying healthy during this challenging time.
This includes thinking about the ways you work. Read our fact sheet for more information about mental health and wellbeing support for employees.
Learn about staying mentally healthy at work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Get help now
If you need help right now, it is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, anywhere in Australia.
In an emergency, call 000.
Beyond Blue Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service
Beyond Blue are providing information, advice and strategies to help you manage your wellbeing and mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National)
TIS National is for people who do not speak English and for agencies and businesses that need to communicate with their non-English speaking clients.
How we might be feeling and why
On top of the concern we’re all feeling about the health impacts of a virus like this one, COVID-19 has turned our lives upside down.
All of the things we’re used to doing each week — going to school and work, catching up with friends and family, going out for dinner, playing sport, going on holidays — have changed.
Many people have lost their jobs and there is uncertainty about how COVID-19 will affect jobs and the economy into the future.
And for people working in health care and essential services, work pressures have never been greater.
Under these circumstances, it’s normal to feel anxious, overwhelmed, confused, sad or even bored. But these feelings can take their toll, and we all need to take the time to care for ourselves and to look out for our friends, family and colleagues.
What you can do
There are things you can do to take care of your mental health and wellbeing.
Look after your physical health
Exercising and eating well help us stay physically and mentally healthy. Read more about how you can stay physically active while following physical distancing rules, and find tips on eating well at home.
Getting a good night’s sleep is a really important part of staying healthy. If you’re finding it hard to get to sleep, these tips might help.
Maintaining social connections is important to feeling safe and well.
You can still keep in touch with family and friends while you practise physical distancing through:
- video chats
- phone calls
- online groups
- chats with neighbours while keeping 1.5 metres apart
Develop new routines
We’re used to having routines to guide our days and give us a sense of achievement. When so much seems out of our control, establishing some structure in our days will help to provide stability and a ‘new normal’.
This is particularly challenging for families adjusting to home learning. Try to create new routines as a family to help separate ‘work and school time’ and ‘family time’.
Think about the parts of your usual routine you value the most and find ways to make these part of your day — such as having lunch with colleagues via video chat, or finding an online gym class.
Be kind to yourself and take time just for you, even if it is just a few minutes to take some deep breaths and step outside into the fresh air.
Plan your breaks and use them to do something that makes you feel calm and happy.
Reach out to others
Some people are particularly vulnerable for different reasons. They may be older, live on their own, have a chronic medical condition, or live in a challenging home situation.
Reaching out to give people support, if you are able, can help your mental wellbeing and make a big difference to someone else’s life.
It’s normal to have ups and downs, and it is important to talk about how you’re feeling with family and friends. In times like these, they are likely experiencing similar feelings.
If you want to talk to someone else, but aren’t sure where to start, there are lots of great online and phone chat support services available. Head to Health is a good place to begin, and Beyond Blue has launched a dedicated coronavirus online and phone support service.
But if you are feeling anxious or depressed for an extended period, see a health professional.
Doctors and other health care providers such as psychologists are consulting via video or phone. Find out more about telehealth options.
Read about Australia’s National Mental Health and Wellbeing Pandemic Response Plan. It responds to the mental health and wellbeing needs of all Australians during the response and in recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. This plan has been developed under the co-leadership of Victoria, New South Wales and the Australian Government and has been informed by all jurisdictions.
It’s important to stay up-to-date with the facts, but constantly tuning in to news about COVID-19 can be overwhelming, confusing and increase anxiety.
Remember that incorrect information is easily shared, particularly via social media. Get your updates from trusted sources, such as government websites in Australia, including Australia.gov.au and health.gov.au.
To stay up to date on COVID-19:
You can also join our WhatsApp channel or use our COVID-19 app.
Join our COVID-19 WhatsApp channel to learn the latest on Australia's response to coronavirus (COVID-19). If you're already a WhatsApp user you can send a message to the channel to connect. If you don't have WhatsApp, download the app to join the channel.
Stay up to date with official information and advice about the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. You can check your symptoms and get notified when urgent information and updates are published.
A collection of information sheets, links to apps and other resources for the general public and industry to help you stay informed and share important messages.
You can also find information at:
- Beyond Blue — Looking after your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak
- Australian Psychological Society — Tips for coping with coronavirus anxiety
- Headspace — How to cope with stress related to coronavirus (COVID-19)
- Black Dog Institute — Coronavirus anxiety resources
- Comcare — Looking after your mental health
If you are distressed, check the Head to Health website for:
- links to mental health online and phone support
- resources and services that can help if you’re experiencing mental health concerns or trying to support someone else