Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Mental Health Services for Victorians Affected by Bushfires

Joint Media Release with:

  • The Hon Nicola Roxon MP, Minister for Health and Ageing

In response to the tragic and devastating Victorian bushfires, the Australian Government is providing $7.5 million for the provision of mental health support to affected individuals and communities. This builds on the social workers, psychologists and case managers currently providing counselling and support through Centrelink on the ground in fire affected areas.

The package focuses on providing primary mental health care services to people most impacted by the tragedy, and support to professionals providing services to them. It also provides additional telephone based counselling services to respond to broader levels of distress within the Victorian community, and support through community organisations to assist affected communities to reconnect and psychologically recover from the impact of the trauma over the longer term.

An initial allocation of $4.5 million is being directed to immediately commencing these activities. Additional funding has been provided to Divisions of General Practice to offer increased mental health care services for people in impacted areas. This will build upon the Access to Allied Psychological Services (ATAPS) Program.

Funding is also being provided to telephone counselling services including Lifeline and Kids Helpline to address the broader emotional response of the community and to provide specialised phone support to children and families who need someone to talk to.

While over time many people affected by the bushfires will recover through natural healing processes, some people may require ongoing specialised psychological support. In addition, some health professionals involved in providing support to survivors of the tragedy may need psychological support and follow up over the longer term.

In order to provide this longer term support, funding of $3 million has been allocated for 2009 – 10 to enable:

  • further support under ATAPS to Divisions of General Practice in affected communities to enable the ongoing provision of specialised services to people with persisting symptoms;
  • ongoing support and training for the broad range of health professionals providing psychological services to affected individuals;
  • specialised telephone services to provide follow up calls and, where required, ongoing support to individuals and volunteers to ensure that their ongoing needs for care are identified and addressed; and
  • support for mental health activities that assist communities to recover psychologically and restore support networks, particularly targeting children and families.