Call for Vic student mental health support

·2-min read

Newly reappointed Opposition Leader Matthew Guy has pledged to employ a dedicated mental health specialist at every Victorian school if elected in 2022.

Mr Guy returned to the Liberal leadership on Tuesday, replacing Michael O'Brien.

He said he would unveil his "positive agenda" in the coming weeks, but flagged mental health as one of his key concerns as the state emerges from the coronavirus pandemic.

On Wednesday, Mr Guy called on the government to employ a mental health specialist at every Victorian school, given students have lost up to 151 days of class and have suffered six interrupted terms.

"The shattered mental health of young Victorians is the biggest threat facing our state today," he said in a statement.

"The consequences of lockdowns and social isolation on our students will last a lifetime if we don't act now."

Mr Guy said the state government's current commitment to have a mental health practitioner, which could be a nurse or a social worker, at all secondary schools doesn't go far enough.

Emma Kealy, the opposition's mental health spokeswoman, said provisional psychologists could be released from their training early to immediately boost the workforce.

"There are 2000 people in Victoria who would be willing, ready and able to provide the mental health support that our young people need," she said.

The Australian Association of Psychologists has been calling for some time for trainee psychologists to be allowed to provide Medicare-rebated services.

Mental Health Victoria supported the opposition's proposal but said the shortage of workers was a "major hurdle" and "national problem that cannot be solved by Victoria alone".

Premier Daniel Andrews said the state government will assess at the end of the year if its mental health practitioner in schools program needs to be expanded.

"We know this global pandemic has taken a toll. We know there is a lot of pain and hurt out there," he told reporters on Wednesday.

"Just as we supported people as we moved into 2021, we will do the same thing in the weeks and months to come."

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