Omicron drives need for increased mental health support

Snezana Ginovski (Supplied)

Sarah Oliver

With COVID cases surging across the state in previous weeks, not only have people’s physical health been affected, but their mental health too.

In anticipation of a need for more mental health support, the state government set up mental health support hubs across the state late last year, including in Melton and Brimbank where the hubs are operated in partnership with community health service, cohealth.

The hubs were supported by the state government’s $13.3 million injection into supporting Victorian’s mental health.

Since opening, the free-access hubs have seen a variety of concerns. And with the recent Omicron virus outbreak, people’s worries have only escalated.

Peer worker Snezana Ginovski, who works out of the Melton and Brimbank hubs, said the majority of issues she is seeing is because of loss of income, extra demands at work and even home schooling.

“A lot of people we’re finding that are coming through … may not have had a traditional diagnosis or have one that they’re aware of … that are having these feelings emerge that are new due to the pandemic,” Ms Ginovski said.

“We’re finding people we are reaching are really relieved, and we’re finding that we can cater it to their needs which has been really helpful.”

The hubs are also designed to address concerns like lowered mood, anxiety, substance use or addiction, homelessness or housing stress, and loneliness or social isolation.

Ms Ginovski said most people already have the tools need to help, but that it can be easy to forget how to use them.

“It’s about unpacking and bringing some of that back,” she said.

“I’m a firm believer that everyone is their own expert.”

To ensure help is provided to a wider area, support is given through a mix of face-to-face, telehealth, mobile outreach and online settings.

Cohealth acting chief executive Chris Turner said the health service has a long history of supporting the health of people in Melton and Brimbank.

“It’s fantastic to be able to offer even greater support for people’s mental health here in Brimbank and Melton.”

The hubs are also being used to help relieve the growing pressure on emergency departments, specialist and general practice services.

“Investing in community-based mental health services helps our health system work more efficiently. We can reduce the burden on hospitals and ambulances by giving people the support they need before their problems snowball,” Mr Turner said.

People can access the new cohealth Mental Health & Wellbeing Hubs via walk-in appointments at the following locations and times:

*Melton – 195 – 209 Barries Rd, Melton West (Mon 10am – 4pm; Tues 10am – 1pm)

*Sunshine – 9 / 2 Devonshire Rd, Sunshine (Wed 10am – 4pm; Thurs 10am – 4pm)

*Kensington – 12 Gower Street, Kensington (Mon 10am – 4pm; Tues 10am – 4pm)