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Mental health on agenda for virus inquiry

A series of traumatic events including drought and bushfires left Australians vulnerable before the coronavirus pandemic struck, an inquiry has been told.

A parliamentary inquiry will on Tuesday take evidence from mental health organisations as it seeks to probe Australia’s response to the pandemic.

In a written submission ahead of its appearance, Lifeline quoted research showing the long-term psychological impacts of an epidemic are made worse by exposure to traumatic events prior to an outbreak.

“Alarmingly, Australia’s very recent history of drought and bushfire devastation leaves us particularly vulnerable to negative mental health outcomes in this time of COVID-19,” the organisation said.

“With that in mind, a national disaster response and recovery framework as it pertains to community mental health and suicidality is required.”

On Monday, the federal and Victorian governments released the latest plank of a mental health strategy – 15 new dedicated mental health clinics in Greater Melbourne and regional Victoria.

Almost $6 billion is being spent nationally this financial year on mental health services and suicide prevention.

Lifeline recommended improved funding for mental health services, better training of mental health providers, region-specific communication campaigns, improved data collection and work on the long-term recovery.

Victoria recorded 35 new cases and seven more deaths on Monday as stage four restrictions began to ease across Melbourne.

NSW recorded four new cases, including three overseas travellers in hotel quarantine.

Lifeline 13 11 14

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