Of all the restrictions placed upon us because of coronavirus, social isolation has been one of the hardest to bear for many Australians.
Last month, 21% of calls to our Medibank Mental Health line were specifically related to COVID-19, with over half of those callers raising concerns about social isolation and loneliness. Anxiety, stress and worry along with job and financial impact concerns were also prominent themes. Isolation, anxiety, worry and depression are also the key reasons cited by callers to the Beyond Blue Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service, which launched in April with a $5 million donation from Medibank and $10 million from the Federal Government.
As National Cabinet today announced a Mental Health and Wellbeing Pandemic Response Plan, we’ve been working to adapt or expand our mental health support services to be there for those Australians who have found it more difficult to cope with the impacts of COVID-19.
Our telehealth teams have been playing a vital role in connecting with people during this time. As part of our COVID Health Assist program, we been checking in on vulnerable customers – such as those over 70 or those with chronic health conditions, making more than 1,500 calls.
We have also been assisting organisations with a welfare check service for people who have been asked to self-isolate as a result of potential COVID-19 contact. Our registered nurses have been providing daily check-in calls to assess symptoms, review their general wellbeing, and offer referrals to health and other support services as required.
We’ve seen an increase in psychology telehealth consultations since we introduced these on March 30 and we expect this to continue. We’ve also been funding hospitals to deliver existing mental health and rehab day and half day programs via telehealth, to eligible customers with hospital cover.
As part of our partnership with Smiling Mind, we brought forward the launch of their new Family Program, releasing it in April to cater for the spike in Australian families seeking help as they navigate the COVID-19 situation. The program aims to make it easy for families to implement a mindfulness routine that will not only help them through the pandemic, but for many years to come. We’ve also worked with the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute to develop a three-part podcast series for parents and carers of children offering practical tips to support them and their children during the pandemic.
Our Live Better at Home free guided meditation sessions have seen over 57,000 views. They are part of our online program of quick workout videos, healthy cooking demos and mindfulness techniques from health and wellbeing experts created specifically for doing at home, and all free to access. All up we’ve seen almost 150,000 streams of the content to date.
Internally, we’ve been supporting our own people as well. One of the biggest challenges many of our team members have faced has been juggling work with kids at home, so we’ve supported them through our flexible work approach, special COVID-19 leave, and education sessions offering advice for home schooling and managing stress.
The changes to our lives wrought by COVID-19 will be long-lasting, but not irrevocable. We want to be there for our customers and we will continue working to provide the mental health support they need.