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Policy report

COVID-19 and Australia's mental health: preventing pandemic distress through economic supports

Welfare supplement COVID-19 Economic assistance Financial stress Economic insecurity Mental health Youth Australia

This policy paper outlines how economic insecurity, unemployment – or concern about becoming unemployed – are key drivers of mental distress for all Australians.

Young Australians are experiencing a mental health crisis during the 2021 lockdowns that is much worse than the last. Yet the economic supports available now are far more limited and harder to access than in 2020. It is clear that JobKeeper and the temporary increase in income support played a key role supporting national mental health in 2020. Australia’s Mental Health Think Tank strongly recommends the urgent introduction of:

  1. Coronavirus 2021 Supplement for Youth Allowance and JobSeeker, to provide people experiencing unemployment during the pandemic sufficient financial security.
  2. JobKeeper 2.0 or equivalent national scheme for businesses, to support people to stay connected to work and provide financial security during the pandemic.

Immediate introduction of broad-based and easy to access economic supports would:

  • mitigate the impact of the lockdowns on Australians’ mental health, particularly younger Australians’ mental health, 
  • reduce the number of young people falling into mental health crisis, and
  • reduce the burden on over-stretched mental health services now and in the longer term.
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