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The Victorian government will spend $200 million to expand mental health services at 1,800 state schools and low-cost non-government primary schools in the state as part of an effort to tackle mental illness among young students.

The funding will be used to scale up a pilot program operating at 100 Victorian schools in partnership with the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and the University of Melbourne, and hire a leader in mental health and wellness by 2026 for every school.

Minister of Education James Merlino

Minister of Education James MerlinoCredit:Chris Hopkins

Education Minister James Merlino said the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Health System, established in 2019, had emphasized the role schools played in identifying children with mental health and wellbeing problems and referring them for treatment.

According to state government data, about half of all cases of anxiety, mood, impulse control, and substance use disorders manifest by age 14. Students who struggle with their mental health also lag behind their peers throughout their education.

The announcement of the funding comes as the state government prepares to introduce a new mental health and wellness law to parliament today.

The new legislation will be used to establish regional mental health and wellness councils in the state and create a new mental health and wellness commission with the power to investigate complaints and hold the government accountable.

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It will also create Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing Victoria, a new youth advisory body with the authority to appoint specialist mental health services.

Merlino said the legislation was “another important pillar” in the government’s mental health reform, which was rebuilt “from the ground up”.

“I can tell you today that we have funded 2,500 additional mental health workers, we are making progress on 90 percent of the Royal Commission’s recommendations and today we have submitted a brand new mental health and wellness bill,” he said. .

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