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An extra 1500 mental health workers will be hired to prop up Victoria’s mental health system, which the pandemic has placed under further strain.

The Victorian government has committed $1.3 billion for mental health initiatives, with $490 million for acute hospital care to reduce waiting times and $372 million in workforce initiatives.

The $1.3 billion comes on top of last year’s record $3.8 billion overhaul of the mental health system after the state’s royal commission found in 2021 it had “catastrophically failed to live up to expectations”.

The pandemic and lengthy lockdowns have aggravated what experts describe as a mental health crisis.

Across the nation, calls to mental health support lines have skyrocketed, emergency department presentations for self-harm have risen and one in five psychologists have been forced to close their books over the past two years.

The 1500 mental health workers will include 400 mental health nurses, 100 psychiatrists and 300 psychologists.

“Building a new mental health system will require a significant workforce – so as we are delivering the mental health system Victoria needs, we’re also creating thousands of jobs,” said Mental Health Minister James Merlino.

An extra 82 mental health beds will be added at the Northern Hospital and Sunshine Hospital, 15 more acute beds in Shepparton and land for a further 49 beds in Ballarat and Wangaratta.

The government will also spend $20 million on support for people with eating disorders, which surged in Victoria during the pandemic.

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