The decision to go on a mental health care plan is not always an easy one.

Many of us avoid it because it would mean admitting something is wrong that we cannot fix ourselves. Perhaps finances are also a problem and the high cost of therapy sessions makes you soldier on and try to just ‘deal with it’.

The good news? Anyone with a Medicare card is eligible for a mental health care plan.

This is a plan made between you and your doctor to address your mental health issues, and Medicare subsidises up to 10 sessions a year with a psychologist, social worker or occupational therapist.

Who needs a mental health care plan?

Anyone who is suffering with mental illness can ask their doctor for a plan. This could be anything from mild anxiety to severe depression and debilitating mental states.

If you feel like you are struggling with daily life and you have felt that way for two weeks or more, then you could benefit from a mental health care plan. Remember that you are not alone in this. In fact, according to Beyond Blue, ‘One in six Australians is currently experiencing depression or anxiety or both. This is equivalent to 3.2 million people today’.

Here’s how you can get on a mental health care plan:

Book an appointment with your GP

Your first port of call is your 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 ask more.

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. It can be daunting to open up to a stranger or near-stranger, but it is important that you are honest with your doctor so they can help you in the best way possible. 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.

Choose the right mental health professional for you

You can request a certain mental health professional or go on your GP’s advice. It is important to find someone that you can click with and that suits your needs. Do your research because if you decide to change after a couple of sessions, you don’t restart your ten sessions with the new mental health professional. You can have a look now at different mental health professionals who have expertise in many different fields here.

It is possible, depending on where you live, that your chosen professional has a waiting list. You will need to call as soon as possible to make your appointment and when you do, they will ask if you have a mental health plan and referral. Bring this referral to your first appointment.

How much does Medicare subsidise?

For a 50-minute session, Medicare will cover $124.50, or $84.80 for 30-50 minutes. All up, you can get 10 sessions on Medicare rebates per year, but you can’t get all 10 sessions in one go. After the first 6 appointments, you need to see your doctor again to review your mental health plan and get another referral. If your sessions costs more than the rebate amount, you will need to pay the ‘gap’, which is the difference between the two.

Now you are ready to start your journey towards better mental health. Inevitably, difficulties on the outside are easier to deal with if you have peace and stability on the inside. It’s an easy process to get help, but it just takes the courage to take the first step.

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