Life can hit hard sometimes and it is perfectly ok to feel sad, stressed, frustrated, and overwhelmed at times.
How you’re feeling right now – you’re not alone.
Three million Australians are living with anxiety or depression making mental health care no laughing matter and one of the biggest challenges we face as a community is that mental health issues are often swept under the rug.
Have you spoken to anyone about how you have been feeling? And did you know that you can access Medicare-subsidised professional counselling services?
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Talking about how you feel can help in many ways and here at New Vision Psychology, we encourage people who are feeling a bit ‘off’ to chat with their GP about their mental health. After all, they’re trained to listen to people and if you happen to have a mental health disorder, they can assist you with creating a mental health care plan with you so that you can get the help you need.
Now, you don’t need a mental health treatment plan to see a psychologist. Many of our clients are full fee-paying. However, did you know that you can access Medicare subsidised psychological sessions? What this means is that you can access mental health support services and receive a rebate to cover some of the cost.
In 2006, the Australian Government introduced Better Access to Psychiatrists, Psychologists and General Practitioners through the MBS (Better Access) initiative. Under this initiative, Medicare rebates are available to help improve the mental health of people with a clinically diagnosed mental illness.
You can read more about the Better Access initiative over at The Department of Health but it can be quite overwhelming. This is why we wrote this guide for you.
What is a mental health care plan?
A mental health care plan (or mental health treatment plan) is a document that your GP writes with you about treating a mental health condition.
It identifies what type of health care you will require and details what you and your doctor have agreed you are aiming to achieve.
A GPMHTP allows you to claim up to 10 sessions each calendar year with a Medicare registered mental health professional. This means that your GP may refer you to see a psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker or occupational therapist for an initial 6 sessions, with the possibility of 4 more after a review.
For example, your GP may refer you for 6 sessions to see a psychologist for your anxiety. After Medicare rebate, you will be out-of-pocket $82.55 per counselling session when seeing a New Vision Psychology psychologist instead of $170 out-of-pocket.
After the first six sessions with your chosen mental health professional (e.g., clinical psychologist, social worker), you can revisit your GP for a mental health review. They will assess your progress and, if required, refer you for 4 more Medicare-subsidised psychological consultations.
COVID 19 update: as of October 9, 2020, eligible people may claim up to 20 sessions each calendar year with a Medicare registered health professional.
How do I get a GP mental health care plan?
If you have a mental health disorder, you and your doctor can create a plan to treat it.
Your mental health plan will have goals agreed by you and your doctor. It will also detail treatment options and support services you may access (e.g., psychiatrists, psychologists, counsellors, social workers).
To do this, you will need to see a GP (don’t worry if you don’t have a family doctor or a doctor that you see regularly) because any general practitioner in Australia can write a mental health care plan with you.
Will you feel more comfortable speaking to a male doctor or a female GP?
It’s absolutely fine to make this request so don’t stress about it. Let the receptionist know, pick a time that is good for you, and you’re good to go.
When making your appointment, especially for bulk bill medicare centres, you may want to tell them that the appointment is for a mental health care plan. This will allow them to set enough time for your appointment as a typical 15-minute appointment is not long enough.
On the day of your GP appointment, you may feel nervous.
Bring along your Medicare card (if the practice is bulk-billed)and a form of identification (if you’re a new patient).
At your appointment, your doctor may ask you some personal questions to understand your situation.
Opening up to someone about how you feel is not easy. You can start by telling your GP what your symptoms are (e.g., difficulty falling asleep) or how you feel (“I’ve been feeling a bit ‘off’ of late”). You can also tell your doctor what’s concerning you and how what you feel has affected your life.
Don’t worry about not knowing what to say. Doctors are trained to listen and ask the right questions so that they can better understand how they can assist you.
For your information, many GPs will ask you to come back for a second consultation before they decide whether a mental health plan is the right thing for you.
COVID 19 update: due to physical and social distancing of coronavirus, it is now possible to get a metal health treatment plan from a GP via telehealth.
What support can I get?
Mental health covers a broad range of things. Most mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, coping with substance abuse and suicide prevention are covered in our mental health services for individuals (we have 4 locations across Sydney – Burwood, Hurstville, Chatswood and Sydney CBD).
Specifically under the scheme, the Better Access initiative covers the following mental health issues:
- Grief and loss
- Panic disorders
- Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD)
- Eating Disorders (such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating)
- Sleeping problems
- Drug addiction
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
- Sexual disorders
- Conduct disorder
- Psychotic disorders
- Bipolar disorder
- Adjustment disorder
- Co-occurring anxiety and depression
Please contact us for more information – our team is available to provide guidance and assistance.
If you already have a MCHP, contact us on 1300 001 778 to make an appointment with us.
I need support right now
You can call any of the following crisis lines 24 hours a day, 7 days a week:
- Emergency 000
- Beyond Blue 1300 22 46 36
- Lifeline 131 114
- Kids Helpline (for young people ages 5 to 25) 1800 551 800
- NSW Mental Health Line 1800 011 511
- Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467