Kids forced to wait for mental health support after Labor MPs block move for reform

Labor MPs have used their numbers in Parliament today to vote against a proposal to boost mental health support for young Victorians.

Shadow Minister for Mental Health Emma Kealy moved a Private Member’s Bill this afternoon that would have made thousands more mental health specialists available to Victorian schools.

In a move backed by the Australian Counselling Association, the Bill sought to amend the definition of a mental health practitioner under the Mental Health Act, to allow counsellors to work in schools.

Ms Kealy said that if passed, it would have made 2000 counsellors available to support Victorian kids through lockdown.

“Our youngest Victorians have been shut out of schools, banned from seeing their friends and extended family and from the things they do to keep good mental health like sport, playgrounds and music lessons,” Ms Kealy said.

“This was a simple change that would have made a world of difference to the youngest Victorians.

“The Andrews Labor Government says it’s working on reform, but this reform is months if not years away when our kids need more mental health support now.”

The additional counsellors builds on the Liberal Nationals’ call earlier this week for the Andrews Labor Government to make an extra 2000 trainee psychologists available to better support Victorian kids.

Recent reports have highlighted worsening mental health outcomes in young people as a result of the COVID pandemic.

Kids Helpline says calls to the service skyrocketed in the most recent lockdowns, while data also shows a shocking increase in youth presentations to emergency departments as a result of self-harm and suicidal thoughts.

“We need to make sure we utilise every resource available to us so our kids can get the support they need, right now,” Ms Kealy said.

“But the actions of Labor MPs today mean waitlists will continue to grow and leave the mental health workforce struggling to keep up with growing demand.

“After 18 months in and out of lockdown and with no plan from the Andrews Labor Government to get all Victorian kids back in the classroom, the problems will keep getting worse.