- In 2020, Australia witnessed major crisis situations like repeated bushfires and Covid-19 pandemic which took a huge toll on the mental health of people.
- The Federal Budget announced a hefty allocation of $5.7 billion for the mental healthcare in October.
- Government’s focus on mental health has put the Mental healthcare stocks in the spotlight as they are expected to be benefitted from the stimulus.
In Australia, the year 2020 has been all about the repeated bushfires and the Covid-19 pandemic. The two disasters uprooted the economy and affected the physiological, financial, and mental health of the Australians to a large extent.
To support the mental health condition of the people, the federal budget presented by Josh Frydenberg in October, focused significantly on the issue of mental health. Frydenberg, in his speech, said that through this budget, the government wants to ensure that people can look upto them for every type of support.
The federal government will be devoting an unparalleled A$5.7 billion to the issue of mental health during 2020-21. More than A$100 million will be dedicated to the annual Medicare, featuring as many as 20 sessions with a psychologist.
Witnessing an increased demand for mental health support services in Victoria, an additional A$7 million has been allotted to mental health services like Lifeline, Beyond Blue and Kids Helpline. A whooping A$5 million will be dedicated to support services targeting people with eating disorders, new parents, and diverse communities.
In addition to this, an extra A$45.7 million has been allotted to help young people contribute more to the workforce and an additional A$102 million will be allocated to former defence forces personnel for availing support services.
Australians seeking professional mental health support
According to the data published by Australia’s Department of Health on 14 October 2020, more than a million Australians did seek professional mental health support during the pandemic caused by the coronavirus.
The data further revealed that Victoria, the most-affected state of Australia witnessed the most numbers of cases demanding for crisis intervention services. The demand spurted up by 67% in 28 days. The state, even now, is battling to control the second wave of Covid-19 amidst stringent lockdown constraints.
As per the data records, in September and October, 3,50,884 people in the state of Victoria looked for counselling services and sought help from psychiatrists and psychologists. This is three times more than the national average, a 31% rise from the same period in the year 2019.
Government’s acknowledgment for the concern
Greg Hunt, health minister, acknowledged that the data released was a substantial concern. He agreed that the impact on mental health because of the extended lockdowns was ‘understandably severe and devastating’. Hunt also shared that the case of Victoria is a special one as it deals with the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic where the restrictions can be extended even further.
The role of Mental health support services
According to the Department of Health, Australia’s major mental health support organisation Access to Beyond Blue was accessed almost 77% more in Victoria in comparison to other states of the country. The statement further elaborated that nationwide, there has been a 15% growth in the number of subsidised mental health care services along with 7.4 million services offered.
Meanwhile, if a study conducted recently is to be believed, mere a phone call or a web chat with the mental care service Beyond Blue had instant optimistic effects on the people.
A booster shot for companies like Cogstate, Limeade and Medibio
As the country is becoming progressively conscious about mental health, there are numerous ASX listed health-related stocks that have grown leaps and bounds. While the federal budget allocated A$5.7 billion to the unprecedented mental healthcare, these stocks are looking bold to perform their role in helping tackle the crisis.
CogState Ltd. (ASX:CGS) – Cogstate Ltd is a prominent neuroscience technology company enhancing brain health assessments to push the growth of new medicines and to empower clinical visions in mental healthcare. The company boasts of providing quick, trustworthy and extremely sensitive computerised cognitive tests. The company has made a marketing deal with Japanese pharmaceutical company Eisai to boost its technology further. The company recently expanded its executive leadership team by appointing Chris Edgar as Chief Science Officer and Paul Maruff as Chief Innovation Officer to cater to the booming demand for disruptive innovations in clinical trials and healthcare.
Meanwhile, CogState Ltd. closed at A$0.795 on 23 October 2020, down by 0.626% from the previous close.
Limeade Inc (ASX:LME) – Limeade is a software company that boasts of programmes and tools to provide support and guidance to people and their workplaces. The US-based firm basically sells ‘employee wellness’ software. Besides, identifying mental health issues, the software’s key target is to measure employee’s presence, commitment and gratification. In August, the company announced an increase of 26% in its subscription revenues for H1 FY20 over the prior corresponding period (pcp) to US$27.4 million. The company reiterated its FY20 guidance with US$56.1 million as revenues and EBITDA loss in the range of US$5.5-US$6.5 million.
The company’s share price closed at A$1.980 on 23 October 2020, up 16.470% from the previous close.
Medibio Limited (ASX:MEB) – With a tagline ‘looking at mental health objectively’, health technology company Medibio claims that it uses objective measures to help early detection as well as screening of mental health conditions. The company has also created a self-assessment tool that deals in broader biometric changes besides tackling the brain activities. It also offers a software that helps in diagnosing sleep disorders. The company recently inked a clinical trial agreement with US located MedBridge Healthcare to assist Medibio’s Sleep Analysis of Depressive Burden (“SADB”) trial.
Furthermore, the company’s stock closed at A$0.011 on 23 October 2020.