Long covid figures lays bare mental health challenges ahead

Australian Psychological Society

The Australian Psychological Society (APS) is strongly urging federal and state governments to work together to mitigate the mental health effects of long covid following reports of up to 500,000 Australians suffering from long covid.

APS President Tamara Cavenett warned that left untreated, thousands of Australians could have their lives completely disrupted saying “this is a mental health ticking time bomb and we must do everything we can to diffuse it immediately before it’s too late”.

“With the current wave only worsening we could see thousands of Australians have their life trajectory thrown off course due to anxiety, depression, PTSD, insomnia, somatisation and behavioural and neurological disorders.”

Mental illness cost Australia $200bn in 2020 and it has undoubtably gotten worse. The cost of inaction continues to climb, and we must limit the impact of long covid by further integrating mental health support into the care for covid patients during and after their hospital stay.”

Psychologists have a critical role in providing support to patients following treatment for covid and in educating other health professionals on potential post-treatment cognitive and emotional symptoms.

Treatments such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, have all been shown to significantly help patients suffering traumatic reactions following hospitalisation or in managing long covid symptomology. Psychologists, particularly clinical neuropsychologists, can also apply a range of brain-based techniques to manage the cognitive side effects frequently reported in long covid cases.

To prevent, limit and treat the worst mental health effects of long covid, the APS recommends that the health system:


  • Monitor patients’ psychological health, wellbeing, and cogntitive functioning post-treatment
  • Provide psychoeducation and information regarding potential post-treatment secondary effects and/or identify risk factors of subsequent psychological distress
  • Provide education on long covid symptomology and the treatments available to reduce the impact of cognitive symptomology
  • Assess patients for potential symptoms of cognitive functioning and psychological distress (i.e., depressive/anxious symptoms, fear, PTSD, fatigue/insomnia, memory and cognitive functioning)
  • Provide psychological and cognitive treatment where appropriate
  • Where daily routines, work, or social functioning are impacted, exploring graded return options, and/or behavioural rehabilitation
  • Refer patients experiencing prolonged or severe psychological distress to specialist treatment or trauma services where appropriate
  • Ensure psychologists, including clinical neuropsychologists are available for consultation in state based long covid clinics

The APS also calls on the federal government to immediately amend Medicare chronic health items to ensure long covid sufferers have access to universally available psychological treatment wherever they may be located

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