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Confused about how to access mental health services?



Okay so I've spent maaaaany hours trying to navigate the minefield of mental health funding, and I thought I'd give a quick run down as to how it works (I'll keep it pretty general so I can hopefully help people who are new to this whole thing Smiley Happy)


You may still occasionally hear/read about being able to access an extra 6 sessions through Medicare on top of the usual 10 sessions. Unfortunately the 10 + 6 sessions funding scheme under Medicare is gone. It was scrapped at the end of 2012 due to budget cuts Smiley Sad If you're still being bulk-billed or receiving subsidies after 10 sessions, it means either your private health insurance is paying for it, your psych is working pro-bono, they're doing something really shady, or your sessions are being funded under a different scheme.


So what are your options?


  • You can still get a Mental Health Care Plan which is funded via Medicare. This is what the vast majority of people will receive when they visit a GP/psychiatrist in order to be referred to a psychologist. Currently you get a maximum of 10 sessions per calendar year. You'll firstly get a referral for 6 sessions, then you'll have to go back to your GP for a 'review' to get another 4 sessions. These sessions may be bulk-billed (where you don't have to pay anything) or you may have to pay a small out-of-pocket fee. Check with your psychologist when you make your first appointment. Headspace recently published a great article about how to get a mental health care plan which is well worth a read.


  • If you have a diagnosis of an eating disorder, from November 2019 you will be able to access up to 40 sessions per year. The details of this are still being worked out by the government, so in the meantime you will only be eligible for the 10 sessions mentioned above.


  • If you/your parents have private health insurance you may be able to get rebates through this (depending on your level of cover). However you CANNOT claim both a Medicare rebate & a private health insurance rebate at the same time. Generally you'll use your 10 sessions under Medicare first, and then any extra sessions will be reimbursed by your health fund. The number of sessions covered, and the amount you'll get back, varies with different policies - so make sure you talk to your health fund to figure out what you're entitled to (if anything).


  • The public mental health system is different again and not something I have a lot of experience with (as I've resisted all attempts to throw me into it Smiley Tongue). The main way to access it is after presenting to an emergency department/being hospitalised for a mental health issue. Your GP may also refer you to public mental health services if you have serious and/or chronic symptoms (e.g. psychosis). Appointments through this scheme are often held at a community health centre or outpatient clinics attached to a hospital, and you may have a case manager/case worker who is responsible for coordinating your care. You should not have to pay for these services.


That's a basic overview of how funding works. I've tried to keep it as simple and condensed as possible but as you can see it's still a massive essay Smiley Tongue if anything isn't clear or you want more details on stuff I can explain things further Smiley Happy


My best advice is to find a GP who you're comfortable with and who has done extra training in mental health (as medicine degrees don't always cover this in detail). It's important to have a healthcare professional who's willing to advocate for you, because unfortunately it can sometimes be really hard to know and to fight for what you're entitled to. Good luck, and know that you're not alone on this journey! Smiley Happy

No human being, however great or powerful, was ever so free as a fish

Re: Confused about all the different ways to access mental health services?

wow! @lokifish what a great article! i can see youve put in a lot of effort here!


**NEVER be afraid to ask for help because you're WORTH it!**

Re: Confused about all the different ways to access mental health services?

Live in a regional or rural part of Australia?


The other day @Ben-RO sent me a link about a new Medicare initiative which allows people living outside metropolitan centres to access psychologists through Telehealth initiatives (where sessions are conducted via Skype calls etc.) It's funded under the same scheme as regular Mental Health Care Plans (the technical name for it is the Better Access Initiative). From 1st November 2017 up to 7 of your 10 sessions can be delivered via teleconference. One of the first 4 sessions needs to occur face-to-face, however, so you can still get to know each other in person and see if they're the right clinician for you. If you're any good at maths you'll know that 7 + 1 only adds up to 8, so I'm assuming that the other two sessions would also occur face-to-face (let me know if you find out otherwise)


You can check if you're eligible by entering where you live here. People living in MMM Areas 4-7 are eligible for this scheme Smiley Very Happy If you're interested in learning more here's an FAQ sheet and some guidelines for clinicians (which you might wanna show to your GP - it's a brand new model so they may not have heard about it just yet Smiley Happy)

No human being, however great or powerful, was ever so free as a fish

Re: Confused about all the different ways to access mental health services?

@lokifish makes sense now why I have received so many sessions from my psychologist! I've been under ATAPS!
It's interesting that they are bringing in the telehealth for psychologists too! I see a psychiatrist via telehealth as there isn't any practising in my area (200+kms is the closest!)

Remember you're amazing just as you are Heart

Re: Confused about all the different ways to access mental health services?

So helpful @lokifish!

Re: Confused about all the different ways to access mental health services?

I know this is an old post but I was researching telehealth online and came across your post. Have you done this yet or is this just based on info you got from the website? I'm trying to figure out if I should go this route because closest access to me is also more than 100km away.

Re: Confused about all the different ways to access mental health services?

@drstacey I have previously, and currently, use telehealth services to see a psychiatrist.
I might be able to help you with any questions you have Smiley Happy

For me, I go to my local Medical Centre for the telehealth appointments.
They have a normal consulting room set up for the appointments and I talk to the psychiatrist via skype.
I find the telehealth appointments good as I don't have to travel so far to speak to them. It means I can continue my daily routines around my appointment.

I do find though that seeing them via telehealth is different to face to face. In some aspects, it's hard as the internet connection can sometimes be laggy or very staticky. This makes it had, but usually we then resort to the phone so we can hear each other better.

Remember you're amazing just as you are Heart

Re: Confused about how to access mental health services?

@lokfish Thank you so much. I don't feel comfortable enough with facing the fact that I'm depressed to open up about it to anyone but my best friend and online, anonymously. Due to this, I kind of have the mindset that it's my problem and that I'll deal with myself which I know is bad. I've been looking into this lately but haven't really wanted to ask about it because people will get suspicious and think there's something wrong with me. I was looking at the list to see if I qualified and felt relieved when it mentioned the fact that if you've self harmed or attempted suicide then you qualify because I used to self harm but I stopped a while ago and I have suicidal thoughts kind of more than I should, should being not at all. 

Re: Confused about how to access mental health services?

Hi @Zeldasmile
I'm sorry to hear you don't feel like you can talk to anyone about this. As @Bree-RO mentioned feel free to start your own thread here 


You mentioned that you've been having suicidal thoughts, are you safe?

It's important to reach out for help when you're feeling this way, there is a list of numbers of who you can call here

Remember you're amazing just as you are Heart

Re: Confused about how to access mental health services?

Hey @Zeldasmile in regards to ongoing suicidal thoughts definitely can be super beneficial to talk to a counsellor ongoing. In the short term you could chat to one of the counsellors at Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800). They work with 14-25 year olds and are really awesome, it's entirely confidential too unless you are at imminent risk of harm to yourself or others. Would you ever consider chatting to one of their counsellors soon?