You’ve been thinking about talking to someone but haven’t quite pulled the trigger. This is a situation all too familiar for thousands of Australians who are stuck in lockdown or who have lived with mental ill-health for the majority of their lives.
And yet the decision to go on a mental health care plan is difficult – one that provokes something of an existential crises because it would mean admitting that something is wrong and that we are not in control of our lives or that we are not the master of our own destiny.
Such stark realisations of one’s vulnerability is of course confronting but we need not suffer alone. In fact, Beyond Blue reports that one in six Australians currently experience depression or anxiety, the equivalent of 3.2 million people. The Australian mental health system, with all its flaws, does provide a safety net for those who find themselves shrouded by darkness.
The good news is that anyone with a Medicare card is eligible for that help – in the form of a mental health care plan. The plan itself is made with you and your doctor (typically GP) to address your mental health concerns. Medicare subsidises up to 10 sessions a year with a psychologist and under COVID conditions until June 2022, a further 10 sessions totalling 20 are available per calendar year.
It’s also important to note that anyone who is suffering from symptoms of a mental disorder can ask their doctor for a plan. This could be anything from mild anxiety to severe depression or PTSD. You need not be in a crisis to access this kind of help. Here’s how to get started:
Step 1: Book an appointment with your GP
Your first point of contact is your General Practitioner (GP). Be sure to mention that you would like an appointment to discuss a mental health care plan, as sometimes clinics will book you for a slightly longer session.
Keep in mind that during COVID-19, you can make an appointment with your GP via telehealth. Contact your local doctor’s office and book a session.
Your GP will then ask you your reasons for wanting a plan and how you are currently feeling. They might ask you to fill in a questionnaire which gives them a sense of your state of mind. If they agree that you should go on a mental health care plan, the session will usually end with them writing you a referral to the appropriate Allied Health Professional.
Step 2: Choose the right mental health professional for you
In some cases, you already have a psychologist in mind. Here, you would request that your GP write the referral letter to that psychologist instead. It’s important that you find someone that you “click” with – for some, being of the right gender, sexuality, or cultural background is an extra level of familiarity. In fact, most of the research shows that it’s the therapeutic alliance or put more simply the way in which you gel or vibe with your psychologist is perhaps the most important factor in your recovery. It’s okay to change your psychologist if the initial session doesn’t feel right for you
Step 3: Profit
You are ready to start your journey towards better mental health. Your mental health care plan, referral to your psychologist, and your will to recovery is all you need to get started. Take a brief moment to appreciate the fact that you have taken the first and most important step towards a better state of being.