Understandably much of the Nation’s focus during the COVID-19 pandemic has been on the development and more recently the distribution of the vaccine, but as we have set about this task a new health threat has emerged.

The lockdowns and other restrictions that have been put in place to protect us from serious injury or even death have given rise to widespread mental health impacts, a phenomenon that has become known as the ‘shadow pandemic’.

Whilst these impacts have been felt most acutely by communities that have suffered prolonged lockdowns, it would be wrong to think that our own community has avoided this phenomenon. Indeed, in my day to day dealing I see significant evidence of this harm, particularly amongst members of our cross-border community.

Prior to the pandemic statistical analysis indicated that one in five Australians suffered from a mental illness, and almost half the population has suffered a mental health episode.

October is Mental Health Awareness Month and as such it affords us the perfect opportunity to stop and reflect on these impacts and what more needs to be done.

In the 2021-2022 Federal Budget, the Morrison Government earmarked an investment of $820 million for the establishment of a national network of adult, child and youth mental health treatment centres.  These centres will ensure the delivery of easy to access, high quality, person-centred, stigma-free compassionate care.

This network of centres operating under the ‘no wrong door’ approach will be an important element of the Nation’s Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan.

The Limestone Coast needs one of these centres and that’s why I’m fighting to deliver one for our community, it will perfectly compliment the Headspace facility we secured as a community in 2016.

In the meanwhile, in these uncertain and challenging times it is vital that we take the time to look after ourselves and those we love.

Anyone seeking immediate advice and support can do so through Lifeline (13 11 14), Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800), or the Government’s digital mental health gateway, Head to Health (www.headtohealth.gov.au).