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The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic is posing significant challenges for Australia including physical and mental health issues, economic consequences and disruptive changes to lifestyles of individuals, families and communities. Evidence shows there is likely to be a significant negative mental health impact from the pandemic and the measures needed to control it as well as from any mid to long-term economic consequences for individuals and the community.

Key Findings:

  • People with chronic, severe and complex mental health issues can experience vulnerability and have reported occasions of poor mental health care before COVID-19. The pandemic has significantly worsened these challenges.
  • The plan aims to improve health access through considering barriers to telehealth for people in remote communities, particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and enable access to affordable and reliable internet and equipment.
  • One of the enduring criticisms of mental health systems around the world is the fragmentation of responses and gaps for people with moderate and chronic conditions. Coordination is a critical issue in helping people navigate services, avoiding duplication of effort and facilitate broad access while acknowledging diversity and the right of consumer choice.
  • While it is too early to determine the long-term physical effects of COVID-19, it is acknowledged that people who are recovering from COVID-19 may experience long-term health complications. It is reported that people living with mental illnesses are already two times more likely to have cardiovascular disease and respiratory disease.

It is imperative that mental health be considered in both the response and recovery phases of the pandemic across all levels of government and community, to ensure that early intervention can mitigate adverse downstream impacts.

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