With stage 4 restrictions well underway in Victoria, it is vital that the focus is as strongly placed on the mental health and wellbeing of the community, as much as the physical health.
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) Victorian Branch welcomes the announcement of $59.7 million in funding to strengthen the Victorian mental health system and ensure that Victorians can access the support and care they need throughout the pandemic.
‘The COVID-19 pandemic represents an unprecedented challenge to the already overstretched mental health sector in Victoria’, explained RANZCP Victorian Branch Chair, Dr Kerryn Rubin.
‘We welcome the focus on building increased system capacity to manage the growing demand for mental health services, while also continuing to prioritise ongoing reform of a system which is not fit for purpose.
‘Throughout COVID-19 we can expect to see a rise in high-prevalence mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, and an ensuing increase in mental health presentations.
The RANZCP Victorian Branch have previously recommended the bolstering the capacity of mental health services in the community, including expanding opening hours of services, so that individuals can access support in the community to prevent unnecessary presentations to the ED.
‘It is pleasing to see this implemented by the State government as a priority, alongside the introduction of additional acute mental health beds as recommended by the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System’, added Dr Rubin.
The RANZCP supports these measures intended to strengthen the surge capacity of clinical and community mental health services across Victoria to cope with additional presentations and reduce pressure on hospital emergency departments.
‘The economic and social impacts of the pandemic are likely to be long-lasting and far-reaching, and mental health consequences, including a possible increase in suicides, are expected to be present for longer and peak later than the actual pandemic.
‘The expansion of the HOPE program is an important step to preventing suicide in the Victorian community. We strongly support increasing access to enhanced care and assertive outreach for people at risk of suicide, especially during the challenging times all Victorians are facing.
‘Mental health should remain an ongoing priority for the Victorian Government, not only during this time of heightened anxiety and stress, but long into the future.'
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, the RANZCP’s consumer health information website.