COVID-19: mental health

20 Apr 2020

COVID-19: mental health

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has significantly changed the way we access health care, socialise, travel, work, learn, shop, and live.

Isolation and other restrictions may increase anxiety and stress. Worries about finances, employment, and family, are common and natural.

You can maintain your mental health with the general strategies and online support below.

Please consult your GP if you need specific personalised mental health advice.

Download the Guide here 


In this section:


Tips for managing your mental health while working from home

Develop a routine for work at home:

  • Attending to emails
  • Schedule regular group meetings to plan work
  • Schedule regular phone calls with work colleagues to discuss work
  • Regular breaks – morning, lunch, afternoon
  • Build-in some short exercise in break time
  • Maintain limits on work hours to your normal working hours
  • Switch off work computers and links when work is finished
  • Maintain usual leisure activities, exercise, family time as much as possible
  • Continue to schedule essential shopping, medical/health appointments

Tips for managing your mental health at home

Create a new daily routine that prioritises self-care:

  • Maintain daily schedules for waking, eating, and sleeping.
  • Maintain a sense of routine life: it may be helpful to get dressed for work (especially for teleconferences), and dress children for school.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Regular exercise, varying as needed with outdoor and indoor activities.
  • Consider creative options including reading, playing games, gardening, hobbies, and other pastimes at home.
  • Limit viewing of television, radio and social media related to COVID-19 crisis – less is better.
  • Access reputable sources of information –e.g. Australian Government - https://www.australia.gov.au/
  • Only use reputable online support groups.
  • Continue your regular general health appointments with your GP, specialists and other health professionals

How to support friends and family

  • Schedule regular contact via videoconference, telephone in addition to email and social media.
  • Discuss and share concerns with friends and family as you usually do through videoconference and telephone.
  • Consider sharing stories of your activities and routines, especially positive events.
  • Ask friends and family, especially those living alone and older people, if they need any help – and offer to help if you are able while maintaining social distancing.
  • Encourage friends and family to seek advice from their GP for ongoing health or to access other supports if needed.

Resources on COVID-19 and mental health


Accessing mental health support services 

Medicare has introduced temporary Telehealth mental health services for people living in city areas that will continue until 30 September 2020.  

These new services will be available in addition to existing Telehealth Item numbers that have been available for the past ten years for people living in regional, rural and remote areas to access psychiatrists, other specialists and allied health clinicians using video conferencing and phone calls.

The new services will enable many people living in cities to access consultations with their clinicians by using videoconferencing or telephone so that they can access clinical care without leaving their homes.

From 20 April 2020, Telehealth consultations corresponding to most of the existing face-to-face MBS consultations for people are available, with the exception of patients admitted to hospital.

For specialist physicians, such as psychiatrists, and allied health practitioners, such as psychologists:

Medical specialists, such as psychiatrists, and allied health practitioners, such as psychologists, will be able to provide mental health care as usual through Telehealth consultations for existing and new patients living in cities. Medicare rebates will be accessible to patients for these consultations.

For general practitioners:

Most people in cities consulting GPs using Telehealth will also have access to Medicare rebates.

However, people in cities considered to have a COVID-19 vulnerability who are:

  • aged over 70
  • aged under 16
  • pregnant
  • have a child under 1
  • are severely immunocompromised
  • have a Commonwealth concession card
  • have a severe chronic illness
  • COVID-19 positive or suspicious or quarantined

are bulk-billed, as at 20 April 2020

For those seeking GP, psychiatrist or allied health (e.g. mental health nurse, psychologist, social worker, occupational therapist) clinical care:

  1. Seek a Telehealth consultation with your GP for an assessment, discussion and determination whether a face-to-face consultation is required.
  2. The GP will discuss with you whether referral to a psychiatrist or allied health clinician is necessary or would be beneficial in your particular circumstances.
  3. For a consultation with a psychiatrist or allied health clinician, this will be either face-to-face at their practice or using Telehealth, depending on their practice, your circumstances and Government advice
  4. All videoconferencing technologies (Skype, Facetime, Zoom, Google Meet, etc) and even phone calls are covered by the MBS Telehealth item numbers available.

Mental health support services

Access reputable online supports, and services:

More information: