COVID-19: mental health
COVID-19: mental health
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has significantly changed the way we access health care, socialise, travel, work, learn, shop, and live.
Isolation and other restrictions may increase anxiety and stress. Worries about finances, employment, and family, are common and natural.
You can maintain your mental health with the general strategies and online support below.
Please consult your GP if you need specific personalised mental health advice.
In this section:
- Tips for Managing your mental health while working from home
- Tips for managing your mental health at home
- How to support friends and family
- Resources on COVID-19 and mental health
- Accessing mental health support services
- Mental health support services
Develop a routine for work at home:
- Attending to emails
- Schedule regular group meetings to plan work
- Schedule regular phone calls with work colleagues to discuss work
- Regular breaks – morning, lunch, afternoon
- Build-in some short exercise in break time
- Maintain limits on work hours to your normal working hours
- Switch off work computers and links when work is finished
- Maintain usual leisure activities, exercise, family time as much as possible
- Continue to schedule essential shopping, medical/health appointments
Create a new daily routine that prioritises self-care:
- Maintain daily schedules for waking, eating, and sleeping.
- Maintain a sense of routine life: it may be helpful to get dressed for work (especially for teleconferences), and dress children for school.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Regular exercise, varying as needed with outdoor and indoor activities.
- Consider creative options including reading, playing games, gardening, hobbies, and other pastimes at home.
- Limit viewing of television, radio and social media related to COVID-19 crisis – less is better.
- Access reputable sources of information –e.g. Australian Government - https://www.australia.gov.au/
- Only use reputable online support groups.
- Continue your regular general health appointments with your GP, specialists and other health professionals
For those seeking GP, psychiatrist or allied health (e.g. mental health nurse, psychologist, social worker, occupational therapist) clinical care:
- Seek a Telehealth consultation with your GP for an assessment, discussion and determination whether a face-to-face consultation is required.
- The GP will discuss with you whether referral to a psychiatrist or allied health clinician is necessary or would be beneficial in your particular circumstances.
- For a consultation with a psychiatrist or allied health clinician, this will be either face-to-face at their practice or using Telehealth, depending on their practice, your circumstances and Government advice
- All videoconferencing technologies (Skype, Facetime, Zoom, Google Meet, etc) and even phone calls are covered by the MBS Telehealth item numbers available.
- Schedule regular contact via videoconference, telephone in addition to email and social media.
- Discuss and share concerns with friends and family as you usually do through videoconference and telephone.
- Consider sharing stories of your activities and routines, especially positive events.
- Ask friends and family, especially those living alone and older people, if they need any help – and offer to help if you are able while maintaining social distancing.
- Encourage friends and family to seek advice from their GP for ongoing health or to access other supports if needed.
- Psychology experts share their tips for safeguarding your mental health during quarantine
- Centre for Disease Control and Prevention - Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Stress and Coping
- Queensland Government - Looking after yourself while you’re self-quarantining
- Think Mental Health - Coronavirus (COVID-19) - Looking after your physical and mental health
Medicare has introduced temporary Telehealth mental health services for people living in city areas that will continue until 30 September 2020.
These new services will be available in addition to existing Telehealth Item numbers that have been available for the past ten years for people living in regional, rural and remote areas to access psychiatrists, other specialists and allied health clinicians using video conferencing and phone calls.
The new services will enable many people living in cities to access consultations with their clinicians by using videoconferencing or telephone so that they can access clinical care without leaving their homes.
From 20 April 2020, Telehealth consultations corresponding to most of the existing face-to-face MBS consultations for people are available, with the exception of patients admitted to hospital.
For specialist physicians, such as psychiatrists, and allied health practitioners, such as psychologists:
These mental health clinicians will be able to reproduce their practices online for existing and new patients living in cities.
For these practitioners, bulk-billing and Medicare rebates will be accessible to all patients, including those classified as having COVID-19 vulnerabilities who previously only had bulk-billing Telehealth item numbers available.
For general practitioners:
Most people in cities consulting GPs using Telehealth will also have access to Medicare rebates.
However, people in cities deemed to have a COVID-19 vulnerability based on certain demographic and clinical features:
- aged over 70
- aged under 16
- have a child under 1
- are severely immunocompromised
- have a Commonwealth concession card
- have a severe chronic illness
- COVID-19 positive or suspicious or quarantined
are bulk-billed, as at 20 April 2020
For psychiatrists who admit people to a private hospital in a city or have a private patient in a public hospital or in a day program in a private hospital (such as those receiving group therapy):
As yet, there are no MBS Telehealth item numbers for hospital inpatients.
As far as we are aware, most private health insurers are not yet supporting Telehealth consultations.
More information can be found at the Department's website at www.health.gov.auwww.health.gov.au
Specific information about the new items, including eligibility criteria for health practitioners and patients, can be accessed at: www.mbsonline.gov.auwww.mbsonline.gov.au.
Information about psychologist services can be found at: https://www.psychology.org.au/Find-a-Psychologist
Access reputable online supports, and services:
- Lifeline - 13 11 14
- Lifeline Text - 0477 13 11 14
- Beyond Blue - 1300 224 636
- Butterfly Foundation - 1800 334 673
- Carer Support - 1800 242 636 or 1300 554 660
- SANE Australia - 1800 187 263
- Suicide Call Back Service - 1300 659 467
- Kids Helpline - 1800 55 1800
- MensLine Australia - 1300 789 978
- QLife - 1800 184 527
- Open Arms (Veterans and Families Counselling) - 1800 011 046