23 March 2020
Psychologists have reiterated their urgent call for all Australians to have access to telehealth psychology services in place of face to face consultations, during the COVID-19 outbreak, in the interests of the health and safety of the entire nation.
Australian Psychological Society (APS) Chief Executive Officer Frances Mirabelli said the Government’s failure to open up telehealth up to all Australians during the COVID-19 outbreak would only exacerbate the increased mental health issues the community faces during this challenging time.
“We already know the Coronavirus is leading to increased anxiety in the community, and that is partly due to people having difficulty accessing the services they need, in person – be that due to concerns about using public transport, issues with managing children who are kept home from school, or simply confusion about what is the ‘right’ thing to do.
“Psychologists need to be able to replace all face to face consultations with telehealth consultation immediately, but unfortunately under the current restrictions on these items this is not possible.
“Now more than ever, it is important that all Australians are able to access their psychologist in a safe environment. We cannot have clients missing out on their consultations, and we cannot have psychologists and their clients being put at risk,” she said.
Ms Mirabelli said that to continue face-to-face consultations now would mean psychologists and their clients were at risk of both infection, and of further spreading of the coronavirus.
“The Federal Government’s own recommendation is that all Australians practice social distancing to minimise the spread of the coronavirus. It therefore follows that psychologists should be minimising face-to-face contact with their clients at this time, and practicing only via telehealth.
“Many psychologists treat their clients in small consultation rooms, meaning they are simply not able to adhere to the Government’s official mandate of no more than one person per four square metres of floor space, and a physical distance between each other of 1.5 metres.
“If we are truly serious about stopping the spread of coronavirus, and protecting the nation’s health and mental health, the Federal Government must immediately open up telehealth psychology consultations to all Australians.
“This is the Federal Government’s opportunity to truly demonstrate its commitment to our nation’s mental health,” she said.
The APS has a number of resources available to assist Australians in managing their mental health during the coronavirus outbreak, including advice for maintaining your mental health during social isolation, and tips for coping with coronavirus anxiety.
Visit www.psychology.org.au for more.