The Nationals leader and Member for Murray Plains, Peter Walsh, says the most urgent need is the massive third wave of the pandemic – swamping Australia with mental health and wellbeing crises.
Mr Walsh said the most vulnerable sector has been our young people; but there is collateral damage across all age groups as a consequence of the Andrew’s Labor government’s remorseless and soul-destroying strategy of lockdowns or nothing.
He said as a result he and his party are calling for a dedicated mental health specialist to be deployed in every school across regional Victoria to help deal with the full consequences of this failed strategy.
“The call comes as the Andrews Labor government finally agreed to The Nationals’ plan for a more proportionate response to COVID in regional Victoria, by lifting the lockdown in areas where there are no COVID cases,” Mr Walsh said.
“Finally Labor has agreed to ‘a focused and targeted series of measures’ in hotspots, as we have been arguing for months,” he added.
“That means, thank God, that the most severe of restrictions will lift tomorrow; but the consequences of these lockdowns on kids will last a lifetime.
“Local GPs are very concerned about number of young people who require support and the inability to give them timely access to psychologists.
“Young people across regional Victoria were already experiencing difficulties accessing timely support. That shortage has now been made even worse.”
Mr Walsh has strongly argued for a more proportionate response to COVID that gives consideration to the impact lockdowns have on people’s mental health.
He said in August; Last month, Lifeline recorded its four busiest days in its 57-year history – a whopping 40 per cent increase in calls from the same time two years ago.
“Daniel Andrews must make mental health support services available to our kids now when they need it the most,” Mr Walsh said.
“The mental health and wellbeing of our children must play a central role in the government’s decision-making.”
Shadow Mental Health Minister Emma Kealy said children had borne the brunt of the state’s lockdowns, resulting in a loss of classroom time and social interaction with friends and families.
“The Andrews Labor Government has a duty to ensure every Victorian student has immediate access to mental health professions in their school to ensure no child will suffer long-lasting trauma as a result of its devastating lockdowns,” Ms Kealy said.