Mental health at risk amid isolation and high levels of anxiety Individuals urged to seek help from psychologists for mental wellbeing

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Australia, 18 March 2020: Psychologists are urging Australians to consider their mental health as well as their physical health, as the intensity of the current COVID-19 pandemic is set to significantly and negatively impact the mental health of individuals and our communities, especially those already experiencing mental illness.

The Australian Association of Psychologists (AAPi), the not-for-profit peak body for psychologists in the country, highlights patients cancelling psychologist appointments to self-isolate, combined with the reduction of social contact, on top of the high levels of stress and anxiety about oneself or loved ones contracting the disease, combined with the concerns about employment and financial stability if required to self-isolate, will culminate in a perfect storm of conditions to create or exacerbate mental ill-health.

As Health Minister Greg Hunt has announced coronavirus telehealth initiatives will be expanded to include mental health specialist services, AAPi is urging Australians to talk to a psychologist.

Tegan Carrison, Executive Director of AAPi explains, “It’s important to remember at this time that health is not just the absence of disease and is not only physical health. A persons’ health also includes their mental wellbeing. Psychologists are mental health professionals and can assist with a wide range of issues and concerns.”

With psychologists in Australia reporting as many as 70% of appointments being cancelled, Carrison emphasises that it is very crucial that mental health patients continue to see their psychologist. Even in a situation where a patient or individual cannot attend in person, they should actively seek out alternatives available, such as discussing with their psychologist for virtual sessions.

Patients may be able to access bulk billed telehealth sessions such as through phone or video calls. This has been set up by the government and may be available to those people with chronic health conditions or are immunocompromised, patients aged over 70 (aged over 50 for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent), pregnant or parents of children under 12 months.

Anne Marie Collins, AAPi president and registered psychologist says, “You might be physically isolated at this time, but that does not mean you need to be disconnected from support and having someone to talk to.

“Staying mentally well can be more challenging when we are isolated. Please speak to a psychologist if you notice your mood has changed or you are struggling with the restrictions of needing to be at home.

“Sometimes, we feel survivor’s guilt for reaching out for support
when we see other people suffering more extreme distress. Do not let that stop you from getting the early help you might need to prevent more serious mental health effects.”

Carrison stresses that individuals should refrain from seeing your psychologist in person if you are feeling unwell or have a temperature, even if you have not been exposed to the coronavirus.

“But please do not just cancel or don’t show up, speak to your psychologist and they might be able to schedule a virtual appointment.

“If you do not currently see a psychologist or mental health professional and have concerns or need extra support at this time, please speak to your GP about a referral to a psychologist. You may also be able to access your GP virtually. We want to make sure that everyone in our community can access support and assistance when needed.”

However, not all psychologists are able to only bulk bill virtual sessions. Many psychologists are small business owners and like any small business owners have many costs associated with running a business.

To find out more about telehealth sessions, please visit: Medicare Benefits Schedule

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About Australian Association of Psychologists Inc (AAPi):

The AAPi is a not-for-profit peak body for psychologists that aims to preserve the rich diversity of psychological practice in Australia. Formed in 2010 by a group of passionate grassroots psychologists, the AAPi’s primary goal is to address inequality in the profession and represent all psychologists and their clients equally to government and funding bodies. Its primary mission is to lobby for equitable access for the Australian public to professional psychological services funded under the current Medicare Better Access Scheme.

About Tegan Carrison, Executive Director, AAPi:

Tegan has spent over 15 years in public health promotion and is passionate about advocating for the rights of health care professionals and improving access for the community. After studying Nutrition and Health Promotion at Deakin University, Tegan went on to become an experienced clinical educator, supervisor, and mentor, including starting a student-led interprofessional clinic with the University of Queensland's not-for-profit UQ Health Care. Tegan also brings a wealth of experience in business management, administration and human resource management. She is passionate and dedicated to improving access to mental health services and creating the leading members association for psychologists in Australia.

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