The State Government has announced a further $22 million for mental health support during lockdown as the pandemic takes its toll.
The government has allocated $13 million to deliver pop-up community mental health clinics catering to residents in the Mitchell, Macedon Ranges and Whittlesea municipalities.
The 20 clinics statewide – with 90 dedicated clinicians – will provide 93,000 additional hours of wellbeing checks and counselling, aiming to alleviate pressure from hospitals and other mental health service providers.
The pop-up centres, based in hospitals across metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria, will be operated by community health providers, including Mind, cohealth and EACH, will open progressively from the end of September.
Locations have not yet been confirmed, but for Mitchell Shire residents the clinic will be delivered in partnership with Goulburn Valley Health; for Macedon Ranges residents, Bendigo Health; and for City of Whittlesea residents, Melbourne Health.
Dedicated support and funding will also be extended to high risk groups, including parenting programs for children experiencing mental health issues, LGBTQIA+ organisations, and to culturally appropriate support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island, through Aboriginal community controlled organisations.
The funding is on top of the $225 million the State Government has already allocated to pandemic-related mental health.
The last state budget included $3.8 billion in broader mental health funding.
The latest Coroner’s Court report showed that suicides had declined this year compared to 2020.
Data shows that 439 Victorians died by suicide between January 1 2021 and August 31 2021, a reduction from the same period last year when the toll was 493.
There has been a slight increase in suicides in people aged under 18, with eight taking their own lives so far this year, but the report cautions it could be a short-term fluctuation.
Minister for Mental Health James Merlino said some Victorians had been really struggling with isolation, financial stress, illness or loss of a loved one during lockdowns.
“We’re not wasting a moment delivering the huge reforms the Royal Commission recommended for our state’s mental health services – but we know the pandemic has increased immediate demand, so we’re investing to make sure more Victorians have access to the support they need right now,” he said.
“Our local communities have been so vital in supporting us over the past 18 months – and these innovative local pop-up mental health services will deliver the support people need, close to home.”
Anyone seeking support can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 and Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 (for young people aged up to 25).