Life as an international student in Australia can be really exciting. Learning about Australian culture, exploring a new city and enjoying some of the most beautiful beaches in the world is something that many people only dream about.

But living abroad, away from friends and family, is not always picture perfect, especially when living through COVID-19. Language barriers, study stress, loneliness or homesickness, financial worries and the uncertainty around when and if you are able to return home can leave you feeling stressed, overwhelmed and not like yourself.

Knowing how to access support in Australia and in a different health care system can be hard. Radiant is here to help make this process easier and the good news is that in Australia there are plenty of ways to get the support you need .

Seeing a Doctor

A General Practitioner (GP) is a great person to talk to about your wellbeing. They will listen, give advice and provide treatment options.

During your appointment, your GP will assess what help you need. If you are experiencing issues or concerns about your mental wellbeing, your GP may recommend you getting a mental health care plan.

What is a mental health care plan?

In Australia, a mental health care plan is a support plan for someone who is going through mental health issues and is essentially a referral letter from your doctor to a mental health care professional. Your doctor will work with you to develop the plan, and it can be useful for people with minor mental health conditions or very serious conditions, short-term concerns or long-term illnesses. You also don’t already have to be diagnosed with a mental health condition to talk to your doctor about making a mental health care plan.

How can a mental health plan help me?

A mental health care plan can help you in a number of ways. Importantly, it gives you and your doctor the opportunity to formally outline how you’ve been feeling, what your needs are and what results you would like. It also gives your doctor an opportunity to refer you on to an appropriate treatment or support service.

Having your own mental health care plan also provides you with a more economical option for seeing a trained mental health professional. With a mental health care plan you may be able to claim back some of the costs from your Overseas Health Cover (OSHC) .

Recently, the Australian government, boosted mental health care plans from 10 to 20 appointments per year. This means you are now entitled to 10 additional appointments (or sessions) per year that you can claim rebates on, making therapy much more affordable and accessible.

Steps for getting a mental health care plan

Step 1: Call your local GP’s office and ask to make an appointment with a GP. If you feel comfortable, you can tell the receptionist that you would like to talk about receiving a mental health care plan. Creating a mental health care plan can take a little longer than a normal appointment, so it can help to ask for a longer appointment when you make your booking.

Step 2: Talk to you GP about options available. In this appointment your GP will listen and work with you to understand your experiences and concerns about your mental wellbeing. They will assess whether you will benefit from a mental health care plan.

Step 3: Work with you GP to find the right support for you. Your doctor might ask you to take a test to determine what exactly is going on and who is best to help you. They will ask a few questions, fill in the plan and set goals with you.

Your doctor may suggest a psychologist or counsellor for you to see, or you can choose your own. You can look through our list of mental health professionals on the Radiant website and choose who you think is a good fit for you. Your doctor can then send a referral letter to the mental health professional of your choice.

How much will it cost?

It doesn’t cost anything to get a mental health care plan, but there may be a cost to visit your GP. This depends on who you see and how much they charge.

Most OSHC will cover all or some of the cost of seeing a GP. When you see a GP in Australia there is a set fee for the consultation called the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) fee. Doctors can charge more than these benefit amounts. If they do, you will need to pay to cover the difference (an out-of-pocket cost, also called a ‘gap’ fee).

Depending on the doctor, you may have to pay a gap fee of $30-50, so call ahead to ask about this or ask when you make your appointment. Most OSHCs cover the MBS fee only.

Your OSHC may direct bill your doctor, which will mean you may not have to pay the full amount at the appointment. Otherwise, you’ll need to pay for your appointment then be reimbursed by your OSHC provider later.

If you need help right away, phone Lifeline. They are available 24 hours a day on 13 11 14.
If you are aged 25 years or under you can also phone Headspace on 1800 650 890 or chat online to a health clinician.

If you need mental health support in your language, you can call the National Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS) on 131 450 or visit tisnational.gov.au to get an interpreter. TIS National covers more than 100 languages and is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for the cost of a local call.

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