NSW Nationals Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation Kevin Anderson has announced additional funding for a free SMS service providing mental health counselling to 3 million workers in NSW’s rural and regional areas.
Mr Anderson said the VirtualPsychologist service, part of SafeWork NSW’s Mentally Healthy Workplaces Strategy 2018-22, was making a huge difference to those working in NSW’s regional areas living with mental illness and distress.
“We know that those living and working in our regional areas have been through tough times over the last few years, and an easily accessible mental health service like this can make a huge positive difference,” Mr Anderson said.
“Mental health issues are taking their toll on our regional communities as a result of the traumatic loss of property, livestock and human lives, and the burden of recovery has been made harder as economic and social impacts of COVID-19 start to be felt.
“With this increased funding we’ve been able to extend this free, 24/7 service for an additional 12 months to ensure those workers who need it can continue to access it.”
Since the service began in October 2018, more than 1100 text counselling sessions have been provided, some of which have saved lives.
The VirtualPschologist program is a part of the Mentally Healthy Workplaces Strategy 2018-22, a Government initiative providing resources and mental health skills training to 90,000 micro, small and medium sized businesses across NSW.
Minister for Mental Health Bronnie Taylor said extending this mental health counselling service to workers was critical during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The uncertainty, isolation and disruption we are experiencing has touched everyone in some way, and for many that has affected their mental health,” Mrs Taylor said.
“Working from home or in a socially distanced way throws up some extra challenges so I encourage people to use this service day or night whenever they need it during this period and even when it is business as usual.”
VirtualPsychologist is free for anyone living and working in rural and regional NSW, just text 0488 807 266. For information on the Mentally Healthy Workplaces Strategy, visit https://bit.ly/3bKSN0i.