As an international student in Australia there is a lot of support out there to support you and your mental health and wellbeing, from online resources, tools, advice and services to face-to-face support. Sometimes, the hard part is finding the resources and services that are right for you and that are provided in your primary language.
The good news is that in Australia many services and resources are provided in a multitude of different languages. Major mental health organisations have support workers who speak many languages, there is also a vast array of translated mental health support information on a range of topics and interpreter services are also available to help you talk with mental health professionals and support services, when and where you need.
Check out these resources to help you access supports and services in your language:
Head to Health
Provided by the Australian Department of Health, Head to Health brings together apps, online programs, forums, phone services and a range of digital resources, many of which are designed to support individuals from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
Beyond Blue is one of Australia’s most well-known mental health organisation. They focus on supporting people who experience anxiety, depression and other mental health challenges.
Beyond Blue has pulled together a selection of resources that are been translated into a range of languages.
eheadspace Online provides group chats on various mental health topics, led by clinicians or young people.
Check out this helpchat that is specific to the needs of international students:
ReachOut is the most accessed online mental health service for young people and their parents in Australia.
ReachOut have collated a range of materials to support individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds navigate the ups and downs that come from living in a new country.
Transcultural Mental Health Centre
The Transcultural Mental Health Centre (TMHC) is a state-wide service in NSW that works with people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities, health professionals and partner organisations across NSW to support good mental health.
They have developed a range of mental health and wellbeing resources that have been translated into a range of languages:
Translating and Interpreting Services
If you speak languages other than English you are entitled to have access to an interpreter when you access a health service. The services are free to use for all patients, their families and carers. In making an appointment you can request the use of an interpreter and your provider will be able to coordinate this service for you.
There are a number of interpreter services that can be used, such as:
National Translating and Interpreting Service
The Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) provides interpreting services to people who do not speak English and to agencies and businesses that they need to communicate with.
Over 22 000 agency clients, including the Department of Home Affairs, are registered with TIS National. Some of their other clients include:
- state and federal government departments
- local councils
- medical and health practitioners
- utility companies
- telecommunication companies
- emergency services
- legal services
- settlement and community service providers
This means, that to use an interpreter and to receive their assistance when accessing a service, you can call the TIS National on 131 450. Upon making the call they will ask you which organisation you would like to be connected to – make sure to have to have their name and phone number on hand when making the call. The interpreter will then tell the TIS National operator who you need to contact and the operator will proceed to call and connect you and the interpreter to the organisation requested.
If no interpreter is available in your language, the operator will ask you to call back soon. If you speak more than one language, you may like to request an interpreter in another language.
You can also ask TIS National about having an in-person translator for appointments, which can be scheduled ahead of time.
Phone: 131 450
Sydney Health Care Interpreter Service (SHCIS)
SHCIS provides quality professional health care interpreting to health care providers and non-English speaking or Deaf patients. Their services support patients to participate, make informed decisions and successfully navigate mainstream services.
- Face to face interpreting
- Telephone interpreting
- Video conference interpreting (where available)
SHCIS is available to all public health facilities 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and the responsibility to book an interpreter lies with the health care provider seeing the patient.
Phone: (02) 9515 0030
Are you an international student in the City of Sydney? Have you been impacted by COVID-19 and are currently in need of legal advice, food relief or emergency accommodation?
To help you find the services and support you need, the City of Sydney Council has developed the COVID-19 Community Hotline. Council staff are trained to provide information on accommodation, access to food, finance, isolation, personal wellbeing and community support.
The Community Hotline is 02 9265 9333 and is open 9am – 5pm, Monday to Friday. You can also register for their Community Check-in Service and receive a regular call.
Alternatively, you can also reach out to many of the wonderful organisations below, who are all here to support you.
Redfern Legal Centre
The International Student Legal Service NSW provides free, confidential legal advice to international students living in NSW. To access this service, call (02) 9698 7645 or make an enquiry online using their free Check-In app. Free legal advice is by appointment, usually on a Tuesday evening or a Wednesday evening, either in person, by phone or using video-link up.
Face-to-face consultations have been replaced by phone or video-link up services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
To call using a free telephone interpreter, call the Translating and Interpreting Service on 131 450. Please note that the Service can advise students living anywhere in NSW.
Phone: (02) 9698 7645
Addison Road Community Centre Organisation – Addi Road Food Pantry
The Addi Road Food Pantry is open to all, providing low cost, rescued and stocked food and grocery items. Spend a minimum of $5 on groceries to access free bread, fruit & vegetables.
International students and temporary visa holders are able to ask Addi Road Food Pantry staff for a voucher to cover the cost of their shopping. $10 vouchers will buy a shopping bag’s worth of groceries plus fresh fruit, vegetables and bread. International students and temporary visa holders are invited to collect free emergency food hampers from Addi Road Food Pantry on Friday mornings between 10am and 12pm. For more information, please contact Addi Road Food Pantry on:
Phone: 9568 7633
Email: [email protected]
OzHarvest Hamper Hubs
Emergency food relief is also available for international students and temporary visa holders at weekly pop-up Hamper Hubs across Sydney.
The OzHarvest Hamper Hubs provides emergency food relief for members of the community, especially the international student community. This initiative is proudly supported by the City of Sydney, NSW Government, Mirvac and nib Health Funds.
Each week there will be a limited number of food relief hampers and frozen meals available for pick up at Harbourside Shopping Centre, Darling Harbour, Waterside Shopping Centre, Rhodes, and other locations.
International students and temporary visa holders can access a ticket to one of two weekly Sydney locations by registering here.
Darling Harbour Hamper Hub (Weekly)
Location: Level 1, Shop 241 Harbourside Shopping Centre, Darling Harbour
Rhodes Hamper Hub (Weekly)
Location: Waterside Shopping Centre in Rhodes, former Lovisa space, Shop 18
For more details please:
Email: [email protected]
Study NSW has also partnered with Foodbank NSW & ACT to provide additional free food hampers to international students in NSW.
The hampers will be distributed at locations in Sydney, Newcastle, Wollongong, Armidale, Wagga Wagga, Lismore, Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour.
To access your hamper, follow these steps:
- Call Food Bank on (02) 9756 3099
- State that you are an international student and your suburb, then ask for the distribution point closest to you
- Have your student visa and student card with you when you collect the hamper
Uniting Harris Community Centre Emergency Food Support Service
Uniting Harris Community Centre is an inclusive community hub that works with individuals, families, groups, workers, students and the wider community to help with everything from family to cultural challenges.
Their Emergency Food Support Service is open Monday to Thursday between 10am to 12pm and 2pm to 4pm.
For more details please:
Phone: 9552 1140
Email: [email protected] with your details and reason for accessing this service.
Visit: 97 Quarry Street, Ultimo
The Staples Bag
The Staples Bag is an initiative of Settlement Services International, and supports individuals and communities in Campsie and Parramatta access low cost and high-quality nutritious food.
Phone: (02) 9787 6832
Visit: 449 Canterbury Road, Campsie NSW 2194. They are open Monday – Friday 9:00am – 5:00pm, Sat-Sun 9:00am – 2:00pm
Hindu Council of Australia
International students can receive cooked food and dry groceries through the Hindu Council of Australia. Please fill out the Crisis Help Form online on their website.
Metro Assist is a community Migrant Resource Centre (MRC) that provides comprehensive support services for members of the community, including international students. This includes food support, employment skills, tenancy advice and financial counselling.
Phone: 9789 3744
NSW Government temporary crisis accommodation for international students.
The NSW Government is funding temporary free accommodation for vulnerable international students in NSW during the COVID-19 pandemic. Accommodation is available for up to 12 weeks initially, with the potential to extend to 20 weeks.
The scheme will be delivered through approved student accommodation and homestay providers.
Service NSW is administering the application process and will allocate the accommodation to homestay or purpose-built student accommodation providers. Applicants will not be able to self-select their accommodation.
To be eligible you must:
- hold an international student visa
- have lost, or be at risk of losing, access to secure accommodation
- have no other avenues of support.
The crisis accommodation will be limited to international student visa holders in genuine need, who have lost, or be at risk of losing, access to secure accommodation.
To apply, visit Apply for international student COVID-19 crisis accommodation or call the NSW Government COVID-19 hotline on 13 77 88.
Wayside Chapel provides unconditional love, care, support and essential services for people experiencing homelessness and social isolation in Sydney.
Wayside is open from 9.30-1pm 7 days per week for showers, practical support and takeaway breakfast and lunch. 2pm – 4pm phone outreach only 2pm – 8pm – phone outreach, street reach and home outreach (front yard by referral from day staff)
Phone: 9581 9100 (Kings Cross) or 9581 9190 (Bondi Beach)
Ask Izzy is a search tool to help people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness find shelter, food, health and other critical support services.
Rough Edges is a non-government organisation that aims to bring a greater sense of self to everyone who walks through their doors. Opening hours to be confirmed on a daily basis. Please call in advance for take away dinner (7:30pm-8:30pm), case management and counselling.
Phone: 9360 6844
It’s important to reflect at the start of each day to ensure that you’re doing everything you can during this time to stay positive.
Relationships Australia NSW has created a list of questions to use each day as a household or on your own.
There are four different versions of these questions (English, Mandarin, Korean and Traditional Chinese), you can download and print them below:
2020 has been quite the year, particularly if you are an international student living in the City of Sydney.
For many, living and studying abroad is an exciting experience, however COVID-19 has no doubt had an impact on our lives in a way that no one quite expected or planned for.
At Radiant we understand that for some, the move to online learning, physical isolation, lack of job security, financial stress and uncertainty around when and how you can return home to see family and friends can feel overwhelming and upsetting.
It’s important to take care of yourself during this time. There are a number of services that can help you and your mental wellbeing, many of which are free, low cost and can easily be accessed online or in and around the City of Sydney.
Please keep in mind that the latest medical information is changing on a daily basis regarding COVID-19 (Coronavirus). To stay up to date, visit the Department of Health’s website here.
The Mental Health Line
The Mental Health Line is a free mobile service that you can access anywhere – it is available to everyone in NSW and operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
When you call, you will speak with a mental health professional who will ask you questions to determine if you or the person you are concerned about needs ongoing mental health care and how urgently it is needed. From there, they can put you in contact with the most relevant mental health support in your local area.
Call: 1800 011 511
Beyond Blue is Australia’s most well-known and visited mental health organisation, focused on supporting people who experience anxiety, depression and other mental health challenges.
Check out their website for information, advice and strategies to help you manage your wellbeing and mental health during this time.
Trained counsellors are available to provide advice and support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They offer phone support services, online web chat support services, and online community forums, so you can get the support you need where and how you need it.
Call: 1800 512 348
NewAccess was developed by Beyond Blue and is a free and confidential mental health coaching program for anyone feeling stressed or overwhelmed about everyday life issues such as work, study, relationships, health or loneliness.
After you have made an enquiry you will be contacted by the service provider in your area. They will explain the program and ask questions to better understand your needs and establish whether the program is a good match for you.
A NewAccess coach will then work alongside you for up to 5 sessions. They will help unpack and develop an understanding on what is troubling you and will then help you develop tools and strategies that you can use in your day-to-day life.
Call: 1800 010 630
Lifeline is a call centre dedicated to helping people who are experiencing challenges in their life by listening without judgement. They are a national Australian charity that provides 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention services and are committed to empowering you through connection, compassion and hope.
Call: 131 114
Sydney Sexual Health Clinic
If you think you might have a sexually transmissible infection (STI) you can visit the Sydney Sexual Health Clinic.
They provide free and confidential testing, treatment and care for people experiencing a STI or who are at risk of, or living with, HIV. If you think you might have been at risk for an STI or HIV you can complete the online risk assessment before giving them a call.
The Sydney Sexual Health Clinic and its services are free if you are:
- Showing STI symptoms
- Under 24 and showing no symptoms
- Over 24, and showing no symptoms but you know you have had contact with someone with infection
- Gay or bisexual
- Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander
- A sex worker (they also have interpreter, and Mandarin and Thai speaking staff that can help)
- Participating in injected drug use.
Call: (02) 9382 7440
Location: Level 3, Nightingale Wing, Sydney Hospital, Macquarie St, Sydney NSW 2000
NSW Sexual Health Infolink
The Sexual Health Infolink is a NSW Ministry of Health funded telephone and online information and referral service. Their service specialises in HIV and STI risk assessment, testing, treatment and support. They also provide specialist support to nurses, doctors, counsellors and other professionals who are caring for people with sexual health problems.
Call the number below to ask any questions about HIV, STIs and sexual health. Free testing is available with a Medicare card, or private insurance, through any GP who bulk bills.
Call: 1800 451 624
Low- cost services
The Psychology Clinic at the University of New South Wales (UNSW)
The UNSW Psychology Clinic provides a broad range of clinical psychology services at a low cost. The clinicians at the Psychology Clinic are trainees completing their Master of Clinical Psychology at UNSW. The Psychology Clinic operates on a fee-for-service basis with fees being used to support the clinical, training and outreach activities of the clinic.
Call: (02) 9385 3042
Location: 8th floor of the Mathews Building on the Kensington campus of the University of New South Wales
Fee: $40 per 50-minute session (standard fee) or $20 per 50-minute session (reduced fee for full-time adult students & holders of government-issued concession cards)
Headspace Centres act as a one-stop-shop for young people who need help with mental health, physical health (including sexual health), alcohol and other drugs or work and study support. The centres are designed not just for young people but with them and so no two headspace centres are the same, with each offering unique services that reflect the needs of its local community.
For international students in the City of Sydney you can go to Headspace Camperdown, and access their services through using your Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) (see our post on how to claim using your OSHC).
For most students insured under Allianz your fees will be billed to Allianz OSHC directly and you won’t have to pay anything. If you’re with another OSHC provider, you may need to pay for your appointment then be reimbursed by your OSHC provider later. You may also need to get a referral from a General Practitioner (GP). Call your OSHC and find out if you are covered for psychology sessions, then contact Headspace Camperdown to chat about getting an appointment.
You can make an appointment between Monday-Friday between 9-5pm by calling 02 4627 9089 or emailing [email protected]
You can visit the Centre (Level 8/171-179 Queen Street, Campbelltown), check out the space and make an appointment with reception to come again and meet with a clinician.
Call: (02) 9114 4100
Location: Level 2, 97 Church Street, Camperdown, New South Wales 2050
The team at the Headspace Bondi Youth Reference Group have also developed a range of excellent material about the types of mental health supports available to international students. See here: https://headspace.org.au/headspace-centres/bondi-junction/international-students-information-pack/
The Psychology Clinic at the Australian College of Applied Psychology (ACAP)
The Psychology Clinic at ACAP is a not-for-profit psychology teaching clinic that offers a range of psychological services at a nominal fee or at no cost. Services are currently provided through TeleHealth services (over the phone) in response to COVID-19, however will return to face-to-face service delivery when it is safe to. The services provided by the ACAP Psychology Clinic are informed by current research and adhere to ethical and professional standards to ensure the quality of the services provided.
Call: (02) 8236 8070
Location: Level 11, 255 Elizabeth Street, Sydney, NSW Australia
Fee: No Standard Individual Consultation, Psychometric Assessment and Report Fees are charged for people who are full-time students or whose main source of income is an Australian Government pension or income support payment. Otherwise, the fees are:
Standard Individual Consultation – $20.00; Group enrolment fee* – $50.00; Psychometric assessment and report fee – $300.00
*There is a one-off enrolment fee of $50 that is payable on the first session of the corresponding group. Group sessions are free of charge.
The University of Technology Sydney (UTS) Psychology Clinic
The UTS Psychology Clinic is a not-for-profit teaching and research clinic that provides quality services to the community at a low cost.
Services are provided by Provisional Psychologists in their final years of training (Year 5 and Year 6) under the supervision.
Call: (02) 9514 7339 or email [email protected].
Location: One Hundred Broadway Clinic, One Hundred Broadway (Corner Broadway and Abercrombie Streets), Ultimo NSW 2007
Fee: $25 per session. $12.50 for concession.
One Door Mental Health is a leading mental health service provider specialising in severe and persistent mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, psychosis, schizoaffective disorder, borderline personality disorder.
Through One Door people living with mental illness and their families can find an inclusive community, innovative services and advocacy support. For more than 30 years, One Door has designed and delivered expert mental health programs that are now accessible through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
Call: 1800 843 539
This information is valid as of: 24 November, 2020. For the most up to date information on opening hours, fees and services available please see individual service websites.
Therapy jargon can be pretty confusing. You might have heard of the terms counsellor, psychotherapist, psychologist or psychiatrist, but what is the difference? And when should you go see one, and who is the right person to see?
There are a range of people who can help you with your mental health and wellbeing, but it can be hard to know who best to turn to. Radiant is here to help. Below we have collated a list of the types of professionals you will find on our website and what they do, so you can find the right support to fit your needs.
A general practioner, also known as a GP or doctor, is a great person to talk to about your wellbeing; they will listen, give advice and provide treatment options if you need it. If you are feeling stressed, anxious, depressed, or having difficulty navigating life’s ups and downs, your GP can be a good first port of call.
All GPs have mental health training and can help you work through what is going on and what might be the best treatment option for you. Depending on your situation they may refer you to a counsellor, a psychotherapist, a psychologist, a psychiatrist or another mental health practitioner.
Counsellor or psychotherapist
The terms counselling and psychotherapy are often used interchangeably.
Both professions involve individuals, groups or couples talking with a professional about any issues, problems and concerns they might be facing. Counsellors and psychotherapists are also likely to be registered with either Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia or Australian Counselling Association .
The key difference is that counselling is usually a brief treatment and centre’s around practical and more obvious problems like dealing with a stressful semester, a difficult boss, or managing relationship difficulties with your partner.
Psychotherapy, on the other hand, is longer in duration and looks deeper into emotional problems and difficulties. For example, psychotherapy might help you to uncover unconscious patterns to enhance your understanding of yourself and thereby improve the way you interact with the world.
A counsellor is a therapist who works with individuals, couples, families and groups to explore and address their identified concerns.
A counsellor can help you improve your mental health and wellbeing with the use of evidence-based interventions and therapeutic models such as acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and many others.
The counselling relationship is built upon trust, security, and confidentiality. Since counsellors often work with more urgent, immediate support, many counsellors are flexible in how they communicate, offering counselling support in various ways, such as online or in person.
Like counsellors, a psychotherapist also works with individuals, couples, families and groups but generally over a longer period. Using talk therapy, they will discuss and explore your past and present challenges, emotions, relationships and beliefs. Through this process they will support and empower you to take control of your life and heal from any psychological distress that you have experienced.
In addition to using talk-based therapies, some psychotherapist might also use art, music, dance and movement to support your therapy session.
People seek out psychotherapy for many reasons. The most common are when you have noticed a pattern of conflict or crises in your life and want to understand what is inhibiting you from reaching your full potential. Psychotherapists help you understand your personal narrative and how certain situations continue happening,
Psychologist or Psychiatrist
Psychologists and psychiatrists are both experts in how the brain works and are able to treat mental illnesses through psychological therapies.
The key difference is that a psychiatrist is a medical doctor, whereas a psychologist is not. A psychiatrist is essentially a doctor of the mind and spends at least 11 years of training. They are able to write medical prescriptions. A psychiatrist will make diagnosis and manage treatment through a broad range of therapies that tend to suit more complex mental health conditions.
Psychologists have at minimum of six years of training and have special training in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness. While many psychologists do have Masters or Doctoral degrees, they are not medical doctorates or MDs. Psychologists tend to see people with behavioral or learning difficulties, depression and anxiety. Like counsellors and psychotherapists, psychologists also use talk therapy but can also conduct psychological assessments and testing, as well as develop interventions and programs for individuals and couples, and groups.
Who should I see?
This entirely depends on your needs and objectives. As a first step, it’s best to make an appointment with your doctor and ask about
Your doctor will work with you and recommend the best practitioner for you to see. Radiant can then help you by guiding you through hundreds of mental health experts. Designed like a directory, you choose the filters that are most appropriate so that you can find the right person for you and your needs.
If you’re reading this, you might have recognised that you don’t quite feel like yourself. Life happens to everyone – sometimes things are great and sometimes they just aren’t.
When we talk about health and wellbeing, most of us think of our bodies and physical health. There is no doubt that a healthy body is vital to our wellbeing, but so is how we are feeling emotionally and mentally.
All of us go through periods where we feel stressed, overwhelmed and where our mood, motivation and energy levels are not going as well as we would like. It is normal to not always feel your best and for your mental wellbeing to shift and change over time .
But if you’ve noticed yourself finding things more challenging than usual – perhaps you have been feeling sad, confused and overwhelmed about the future and for a prolonged period of time (a few weeks or more) – then seeing a professional might be a helpful step towards supporting your mental health and wellbeing.
As an international student in Australia, your Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) can help you access support.
Check out our easy four step process:
Step 1: Understand what is covered under your OSHC
As an international student you are required to have OSHC for the duration of your stay in Australia. This would have been worked out prior to you arriving and is part of the requirements for studying here.
OSHC benefits are similar to what Australians receive through the national public health care system, Medicare. Some international students may even be eligible for reciprocal health care. Australia has agreements with 11 countries. Click here to see if yours is listed.
Otherwise, your OSHC cover should cover basic necessities like: in hospital and out-of-hospital medical assistance, prescription medications and emergency ambulance assistance .
We recommend touching base with your provider to see what type of medical appointments are fully covered or partially covered under your OSHC.
You can find their details below;
Step 2: Make an appointment to see a General Practitioner (GP)
A General Practitioner (GP) is a great person to talk to about your wellbeing. They will listen, give advice and provide treatment options if you need it.
When you book your appointment make sure you ask them how much an appointment will cost and tell them you would like to talk about receiving a mental health care plan. That way your doctor can know in advance to set aside enough time for your appointment.
Most OSHC will cover some or all of the cost of seeing a GP – but depending on the doctor you see, you may have to pay a fee of $30-50. Be sure to call ahead to ask about this when you make your appointment .
Step 3: Talk to your GP about the options available in receiving a mental health care plan.
During your appointment, your GP will work with you to assess whether you will benefit from a mental health care plan. They will ask a few questions, fill in the plan and set goals with you.
Check out our blog here to understand more about how this process works. Essentially, a mental health care plan makes therapy more affordable and accessible. A mental health care plan might include:
- A referral to an expert, like a psychologist
- Advice on the types of mental health care that can support you
- Strategies to improve and maintain your mental health .
As part of this plan, your GP might suggest a mental health practitioner for you to see, or you can choose a mental health practitioner yourself.
If you would like to choose your own practitioner, Radiant can help you with this. We facilitate access to over 300 experienced counsellors and practitioners, so students like yourself can find the support you need during your time in Australia.
Step 4: Check your OSHC policy
Once your mental health care plan has been developed and you have found the right practitioner for you, it’s important to talk to your OSHC provider and ask them how to make a claim, how much money you can claim back and when.
If you’re a student with Medibank OSHC, you can call the Student Health and Support Line on 1800 887 283 at any time of the day or night. They’ll offer you advice and over-the-phone counselling as part of your cover. They also have an interpreter service so you can speak to someone in your own language.
If you are a student with Allianz OSHC you can call 13 67 42 and they’ll let you know which treatments are included in your policy.
For all others, contact them directly.
How much will it cost to see a mental health professional?
Every mental health professional is different, and the charges vary depending on their qualifications.
Counsellors and Psychotherapists tend to be more financially accessible, whereas Psychologists and Psychiatrists tend to cost a bit more.
To know how much it will cost, call your mental health professional beforehand to find out how much they charge. Then contact your OSHC provider and ask them how much money you can claim back.
From there, you will need to pay the gap fee. A gap fee is when the expense of the medical treatment is only partly covered by the health insurance. The part that is not covered by insurance is called the ‘gap’, and this is the amount you will need to pay.
For example, psychology is categorised under the specialist part of your cover. If the psychologist is registered under Medicare Benefit Schedule (MBS) then your OSHC may pay around 85%* of the MBS rates. Psychologists may also charge more than the MBS rate.
With a referral, the MBS fee for item 80110 (a Psychology visit) is $99.75. If you visit a psychologist that charges $140, and you have an OSHC that pays 85% of the MBS fee for specialists, you would get back $84.80, and your out-of-pocket cost would be $55.20.
Support is available, and people can want to help you. Remember that you are not alone and you can get through this.
 Headspace (2020), ‘What are mental health difficulties and when to seek help’
 Australian Government Department of Health (2020) ‘ Overseas Student Health Cover Fact Sheet’
 Australian Government Private Health (2020) ‘Overseas Student Health Cover’
 Study Melbourne (2020), ‘Overseas Student Health Cover’
 Services Australia (2021), ‘Mental health care and Medicare’
Headspace (2018), ‘How to get a mental health care plan’
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.
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.
1. Services Australia (2021), ‘Mental health care and Medicare’, Headspace (2018), ‘How to get a mental health care plan’
2. Services Australia (2021), ‘Mental health care and Medicare’.
3. Study Melbourne (2020), ‘Overseas Student Health Cover’, Australian Government Private Health (2020) ‘Overseas Student Health Cover’
According to the Blackdog Institute, 1 in 5 (20%) Australians aged 16-85 experience a mental illness in any year. The most common mental illnesses are depressive, anxiety and substance use disorder.
If you have been diagnosed with a mental health illness then you’re probably already aware of how difficult it can be to find a sense of equilibrium. Even with medication and therapy, it can take time to find exactly what works best for you.
The most common self-help strategies are to exercise, meditate, eat a nutritious diet and learn how to be more present. Below we have a listed a few more techniques to add to your toolbox. Everyone is different and we all respond to things differently, so these are just some ideas. Some may work for you, others may not. Try them out and see what resonates.
In a previous blog post, we provided a few different breathing techniques that activate the body’s natural relaxation response. When we breath slowly with a focus on a longer exhale, we stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness. Essentially, just by breathing we are able to feel more connected to our body and quiet our busy minds. This is not for everyone though. Some poeple may find that focusing on their breath can actually be triggering so just be aware of how your body reacts and adjust accordingly.
Grounding with the 5 Senses
If deep breathing is not something that works for you, another effective tool is to ground yourself through all of your senses. For example, if you feel triggered by something, stop and look around the room you are in:
5 things that you can see
Take conscious notice of 5 things that are in the room you are in. Notice the textures, colors, size and shapes. Imagine taking a mental snapshot of this room right now.
4 things you can touch or feel
Take notice of your body. What can you feel? Perhaps your socks gently covering your feet, or your elbows leaning against a table.
3 things you can hear
What are the sounds around you? Perhaps the voices of people, or cars passing by.
2 things you can smell
What are the smells? Are there any?
1 thing you can taste
What can you taste? Perhaps a mint or chewing gum, or noting at all.
Going through your senses helps you stay you present and focused on what is actually happening around you, rather than the stories or thoughts in your mind.
Cognitive reframing is an effective tool that counsellors use to help a client see a certain situation a different perspective. For example, you applied for a job and found out you didn’t get it.
While it would be disappointing, especially if you feel the interview went really well. It’s not helpful to feel bad about yourself and consider yourself bad or unworthy because you didn’t get the job. Instead, you could reframe the situation: I didn’t get this particular job, but now I know how I can improve for the next one. If I keep trying I will eventually find a job, and maybe the next one will be even better.
Radical acceptance means to completely and totally accept a given situation for everything it is.
It’s a skill taught in Dialectical Behavior Therapy. To radically accept something does not mean that you are agreeing or approving with what happened. Instead, it’s simply acknowledging reality and not fighting it.
Some ways we fight reality is by saying “It shouldn’t be this way,” or “That is not fair!” or “Why me?!”. But unfortunately, fighting reality will only make things worse. Sometimes life will deliver something that we did not want and it can be painful to accept. Just like being diagnosed with a mental illness. You simply cannot change the fact that you have a mental illness. The more time you spend trying to “get rid of it” or pretending it doesn’t exist is only draining you of valuable energy. Instead, accept what is. Accept yourself and your condition. Only then can you take the necessary steps to take care of yourself.
It can be really hard to practice all these, and it takes a patience and persistence. You don’t need to do it alone. If you need help then find a trained professionals on our website – either online or in person- who can help you today.
As the world continues to grapple with the Coronavirus, working from home has become the new norm in many work places.
Here are few tips on how you can stay productive while working from home and maintain your own well-being:
Create a schedule
Trying to create a somewhat normal routine is not only important for you but also for your children (if you have kids). Setting a schedule that replicates a school day or a normal work day can be really helpful. It helps to wake up at the same time every day and get dressed as you would on a ‘normal’ day, this will help with focus and productivity. It’s also important to still take a lunch break or coffee break and for kids it is still great for them to have a lunch hour, and in that time send them outside into the backyard to play. With your children/child set aside some time to write out all your schedules, you can have a reward system in place for whoever sticks to their schedules the best each day.
Keep up communication
Having regular chats with your colleagues is just as important as talking with your loved ones in this time. Being home over the next few weeks may get lonely for some, so having regular communication will not only keep morale high but is a good way to ensure you can stay focused, energised and productive. Most people will be trying to manage the same challenges e.g. work and life balance, so the best thing you can do is be open and honest with your team. If you’re jumping into a video conference it is okay to give them a “heads up” that a child may come into the room or be making some noise in the background.
You may have family members or a friend who lives alone, so make sure you check in on them and let them know you’re only one call away. It is also beneficial to you to have conversations with those outside your house and if necessary have a vent or chat about what is going on at home.
You may live in an apartment block or have elderly neighbours or someone with a compromised immune system. If you’re heading to the shops it could be nice to slip a note under their door or give them a call and ask if they need anything. You will be surprised how many people would appreciate these small gestures and return the favour. Maintaining our community is good for us all.
Set up a work space and work boundaries
As tempting as it is to stay in your pyjamas and send emails from bed, it won’t be beneficial in the long run. It is important to treat working at home like a real job. If you already have a desk or office that is great, but if you don’t, setting up a space that is specifically for you is important. Up until now you might work on the dining room table for an hour at night. If you are now based at home, you might need to create something more established and more private. Setting up something similar for your children and creating a space that is just for them where they can do their school work will help keep them on track.
It is also a good idea to set boundaries for the people you live with, if you have children let them know if parts of the day are “do not disturb” time. You can have a sign on your door or a little note on the table with “thumbs up” or “thumbs down.” If you know that parental responsibilities could affect your work time, speak up openly with your team about your plans to work flexibly. You might need to have more breaks and to then log in again after dinner if you have home distractions.
Staying active while working from home can sometimes be difficult.
Sometimes just a walk around the block before you start your work day or going for a walk/run in your lunch break is all you need. Either way, it’s important to take breaks throughout the day. Whether working from home or at work, we all need short breaks to stay fresh and alert.
Plan out your weekend activities
More and more places have opened up but because of restrictions in restaurants and cinemas it can be hard to get into places without some advance notice. It’s important to plan ahead to avoid disappointment. To keep things entertaining and different, one idea could be creating a bowl where each family member writes on a piece of paper a different activity you can do. Other ideas that don’t involve leaving the house include:
- Board games
- Drawing or painting competitions
- Backyard sport – soccer, cricket, handball
- Movie marathons/start a new TV series
- Baking snacks for the week
- My Kitchen Rules home edition (split the family into groups and have one group cook entrée, the other main course)
We know this situation is a first for all of us and will be challenging at times. You may be feeling completely overwhelmed and there are people who are here to help:
This blog originally appeared on Relationships Australia NSW.
If you want to be there for someone who is struggling, it’s clear that you are already a good friend.
It can be hard to know exactly how to help them, or what to say.
It can also be hard to know what exactly is going on. Mental health is complex and we all respond differently.
How do I know if my friend has a mental health problem?
Below are some typical signs of mental ill health but it’s important to remember that everyone responds differently depending on many different factors. If you know the person well, you may notice changes in their behaviour or mood.
Signs of depression
People who are depressed may:
- have low confidence
- lose interest in activities they normal enjoy
- lose their appetite
- get tired easily
- be tearful, nervous or irritable.
- may feel suicidal.
Signs of anxiety
People experiencing anxiety may:
- have difficulty concentrating
- be irritable
- try to avoid certain situations
- appear pale and tense
- be easily startled by everyday sounds.
Here are a few ways you can support them:
1. Consider the time and place
If you’re initiating the conversation take the time to think about the time and place. It’s best to choose somewhere you can talk openly, and a time when you can listen actively, without rushing or checking your watch.
2. Be prepared for setbacks
The person you’re reaching out to might not be ready to talk, and that’s okay. If you reach out and they dodge conversation or say it’s not something they want to talk about, it doesn’t mean the conversation is a failure. You’ve still let your friend or loved one know you’re concerned, and you’re there for them if they need you.
3. Ask gentle questions
Asking gently and compassionately can help your friend or loved one explore their options. You might ask how long they’ve been feeling this way, or if they need support to see a doctor (GP).
4. Know your own boundaries
It’s great for you to reach out and offer support, but it’s also important be mindful of where your expertise or capacity to help is limited. You might need to refer someone on to a professional or other support services.
5. Know who to call if there is a crisis
do your research to see what support groups are available in your local area. If someone is at risk of hurting themselves or someone else, you should call 000 or reach out to a trusted person, like a parent, teacher, or health professional immediately.
6. Avoid minimising language
Try not to use language like “don’t worry”, “cheer up”, or “it’ll be better tomorrow” – language like this can make someone feel as though you’re minimising or trivialising their experience.
Also, try not to over-react by magnifying the issues and involving too many people. Avoid any fearful responses by reacting to unusual or eccentric behaviour by amplifying your own anxiety. Try to also avoid personalising what they are going through by telling them things like, “this is what worked for me, so it will work for you.”
7. Don’t diagnose
It’s important not to offer your own diagnosis of what they’re going through, or debating the facts of their experience.
8. Avoid trying to ‘fix’ the problem.
Though it is incredibly hard to see a friend or loved one hurting, it’s important to understand that mental illness is complex, requires patience, and won’t just disappear over night. Instead listen actively, practice patience, ask gentle questions, and suggest different ways for your loved one to seek support.
9. Try not to judge, analyse or question experiences you can’t relate to.
Experiences of mental illness are unique to each individual and can manifest in very different symptoms, behaviours and feelings. Try to listen without judgement, and to respond calmly, without exhibiting shock or alarm.
If a friend or loved ones need professional support you have a range of options.
If someone is at risk of hurting themselves or someone else, call 000 immediately, even if they ask you not to. For a friend or loved one who isn’t sure what they’re experiencing, or needs immediate support, it’s best to go straight to a GP.
If you’re friend or loved one is ready to talk to someone and seek support, they might use a service like Radiant to find and connect to a counsellor or mental health professional that feels right for them.
If a someone you care about has been impacted by a traumatic event, it can be extremely distressing to watch them try to deal with the effects of such an experience.
It’s normal to want to help them or take their pain away. You may find yourself worrying about their well-being and you may feel helpless by their emotional reactions to the event.
Someone who has experienced a traumatic experience may seem ‘shut down’ or distant as a way to block out painful memories. Others may feel numb, or lack the energy to do things. They may stop participating in family life, ignore your offers of help, or become angry and irritable. Everyone reacts differently.
It’s important to remember that these reactions are signs that your loved one may not be coping. These reactions are not necessarily about you. If you are wondering what you can do to be supportive to a person dealing with a recent trauma, here are some places to start:
It’s important to recognise that they have been through something extremely stressful event and may need time away to process what happened to them. It can be difficult to accept this but you can help them by providing practical day-to-day support, like helping them with grocery shopping or cooking a meal.
This probably one of the most important things you can do. Doing “active listening” can be really important to survivors of trauma. This means devoting your attention to the act of listening carefully without judging, interrupting, or talking about your own personal stories. Asking questions and clarifying what you are hearing is also an important part of active listening as it shows that you are interested in getting the details right.
3. Don’t judge
Try to imagine how it might feel to be in their shoes. Judgments are a heavy burden that many trauma survivors are familiar with, don’t add to this burden. Instead, you can help by simply supporting the person without implying that they should (or shouldn’t) have done something differently, or that what they did was wrong or right thing, or good or bad. Let the person guide the conversation and take their lead.
Acknowledge what they are going through with statements like, “it’s really tough to go through something like this” or “This is such a difficult time for you”. Simply validating that they are going through a difficult situation can be really helpful. you can show that you understand by re-phrasing the information they give you. Try starting with something like, “You seem really…”, “It sounds like…”, “Did I understand right that you…”, “No wonder you feel…”
5. Avoid pathologizing
It’s normal to feel a range of different emotions to trauma. There is no ‘right way’ to react. Give the person a few weeks and refrain from labelling what they are going through as an illness. It only becomes a problems after a couple of months if their responses are interfering with the person’s daily life. If that is the case you could speak with the person about finding some professional support in a nonjudgmental way so the person does not feel attacked.
6. Take care of yourself
Taking care of yourself may be the most important thing you can do to help your loved one. Supporting someone who has been through a traumatic event can take a massive toll on you, so much so that your own health can be affected and you can no longer act as an effective support person. During these times, it’s critical to do your own self-care. You might also benefit from speaking to a counsellor or finding a support group. If you’ve tried all these strategies and things still aren’t improving after a couple of weeks, or if you or your loved one is having trouble coping with work or with relationships, talk to your GP. Your GP can help you and your loved one, and refer you to services and professionals that can help.