COVID-19 response to mental health practitioners

This webinar on 10 August is part of a series to update mental health practitioners on the COVID-19 response. The panel will provide key updates and answer participants’ questions.

Health sector
Webinar date:

Questions and answers from the webinar

Question 1

Are 10 extra Better Access Sessions going to be extended to people trapped on border bubbles? For example, similar to the border restrictions placed on people who live in the Tweed Shire; many of whom face job loss.

Answer 1

The additional 10 Better Access sessions are for people who have already used their 10 individual sessions under a mental health care plan in the calendar year, and are:

  • in areas subject to public health orders restricting their movement. This is within a state or territory issued at any time from 1 July 2020 to 31 March 2021, or
  • required to isolate or quarantine under public health orders for at least 14 days.

Apart from Victoria, other states and territories do not have current public health orders limiting movement for residents of a locality. People residing in border towns who may be impacted by restrictions, though not under public health orders will not be eligible.

Question 2

Why is there more investment in Better Access, a hugely costly program, without widespread evidence of its effectiveness? What's the cost benefit analysis compared to other interventions?

Answer 2

The Australian Government has recently received the MBS Review Taskforce report which includes review of the items available under the Better Access program.

The Australian Government will consider the recommendations from the Taskforce together with:

  • the recommendations from the Productivity Commission
  • advice from the National Suicide Prevention Advisor, Christine Morgan, and the Deputy Chief Medical Officer for mental health, Dr Ruth Vine.

This will inform any changes to mental health programs.

Question 3

What funding or programs have been developed to support front line health workers who may suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder once the pandemic has diminished?

Answer 3

The Australian Government funds the University of Melbourne to develop video resources to support the mental health of health workers during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. The University of Melbourne is working with the Black Dog Institute to provide free access to these through the Black Dog Institute’s e-health hub.

The Australian Government also funds Phoenix Australia to provide a number of projects which include support or training for front line personnel after adverse or traumatic events. These include:

  • Trauma-Informed Care (TIC) training, a framework for understanding, responding, and aiding recovery
  • Psychological First Aid (PFA) programs which are available to managers and supervisors of frontline emergency personnel
  • trauma-related resources and training to aid general practitioners, other health care professionals and their health care teams to better support community members affected by adverse events
  • Australian Digital Training Platform in Disaster Mental Health to support education, training and free online resources for health practitioners supporting community members affected by disaster
  • development of the Australian Guidelines for the Treatment of Acute Stress Disorder and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder to ensure health practitioners, policy makers, service funders and people affected by trauma have access to best practice approaches to prevention, early intervention and treatment.

Question 4

There has been recent media for a 'Push for coaches to help relieve mental health crisis'. Why focus on a new (under qualified) mental health workforce rather than our current skilled workforce?

Answer 4

We welcome ideas from a broad range of stakeholders on how to support the mental health workforce. The Australian Government is developing a new National Mental Health Workforce Strategy, overseen by an independent taskforce which includes representatives from:

  • professional and peak groups
  • consumers and carers
  • labour force and education specialists
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • state and territory governments.

The Australian Government currently funds the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners to deliver the General Practice Mental Health Standards Collaboration (GPMHSC). This provides accreditation to a variety of mental health skills training and focused psychological skills training programs for GPs. This ensures all education activities for GPs in the area of mental health meet high standards set by the GPMHSC. Find out more about the GPMHSC.

GPs also have access to professional development and networking opportunities through the Mental Health Professionals’ Network. This facilitates an online professional development program and networking for local practitioner networks including GPs, psychiatrists, psychologists and other health professionals. More information is available on the MHPN website.

The Mental Health Professional Online Development (MHPOD) is a national online professional education tool for mental health professionals. The curriculum aims to align with the National Practice Standards for the Mental Health Workforce 2013. MHPOD is available to GPs as well as other health professionals. More information is on the MHPOD website.

Question 5

Why are psychologists who are not working in a hospital setting required to wear a mask and face shield? Is this necessary where social distance and compliant hygiene can be followed?

Answer 5

It’s important the same infection prevention and control procedures are observed pre-COVID. In areas with low or no community transmission, and for the care of patients who are not suspected, probable or confirmed cases of COVID-19. For an allied health practitioner who has no physical contact with patients and is able to keep a distance of at least 1.5m, there would be no requirement for specific Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). In areas with significant community transmission, the advice of the relevant public health authorities should be followed. Where possible Telehealth should be considered and where face-to-face interaction is needed you should practise physical distancing and hygiene measures.

Health care workers may need to take extra precautions if in geographical areas with significant community transmission of COVID-19 (as defined by jurisdictional public health units); and in specified clinical settings.

All PPE should be used in line with the principles in the Australian Guidelines for the Prevention and Control of Infection in Healthcare (2019), acknowledging the unique circumstance of COVID-19.

Read information endorsed by the ICEG. Documents that may be of particular interest to psychologists include:

Question 6

What advice do we give for parents looking after young people who are self-harming for the first time? This is a very dark place for these young people and their families.

Answer 6

Caring for a child or young person who is engaging in self-harm is confronting and frightening. Parents can feel confused and uncertain how to respond. If the situation is an emergency, then getting help and advice from emergency services (police or ambulance), or your local emergency department may be required. In less immediate situations, it is important to seek help from a health professional, such as a GP or a psychologist, or to contact your local mental health triage line for advice.

There are websites with information that may help parents to support their child or a young person if they are self-harming:


  • Mark Roddam
  • Dr Ruth Vine
  • Christine Morgan

How to watch the webinar

You do not need to RSVP for the webinar, and there is no limit to the number of participants.

To participate in a live webinar, follow these steps:

  • Click on the Webinar link. This will take you to the webinar page.
  • To start a live webinar, click on the ‘launch’ button (no log in is required). For upcoming webinars, this button will only appear 15 minutes prior to the event start time, and once launched will only display a holding image in the video player.
  • After you click on the ‘launch’ button, you will see a video player - this is where you will watch the webinar. For upcoming webinars there will also be a chat window which you can use to submit your questions.
  • You can test whether you can watch the live webinar from your device before the event. If the video pauses, please refresh your web browser by pressing F5 on your keyboard.

To watch a webinar that has finished airing, follow these steps:

  • Click on the Webinar link. This will take you to the webinar page.
  • click on the play icon on the webinar screen.

Please note:

  1. 15 minutes prior to the event start time, you will only see a holding image in the video player.
  2. Before the event, please test whether you can watch the live webinar from your computer, laptop or tablet.
  3. If the video pauses, refresh your web browser by pressing F5 on your keyboard.


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