What is a Mental Health Care Plan and How Can I Get One?

At a Glance:

  • 20% of Australians experience mental health issues each year
  • 45% of Australians will experience mental health issues in their lifetime
  • 18-24 year old people have the highest prevalence of mental health issues
  • Around one in five people aged 15-19 meet the criteria for serious mental illness (2014 Mission Australia’s Youth Survey)
  • Anxiety disorders, depressive disorders and substance abuse disorders are the most common mental health issues in Australia
  • 54% of Australians with mental health issues don’t access aid or treatment (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Australia’s Health 2014.)
  • A Mental Health Care Plan (MHCP) gives people facing mental health issues access to support and treatment subsidised in full or part by Medicare 
  • Anyone with a valid Medicare card is eligible for a Mental Health Care Plan

Mental illness is not rare - each year around one in five Australians between the ages of 16-85 will experience mental health issues. According to Australian Bureau of Statistics, around 45% or Australian will experience mental health issues during their lifetimes, but only slightly over half of those people will seek help or treatment for their condition.

The reasons for not seeking help are hard to nail down, but some might be worried about the (thankfully diminishing) stigma surrounding mental health issues, while others may be worried about the cost of seeing mental health care professionals. This is where a Mental Health Care Plan comes in.

A Mental Health Care Plan is a system that can help anyone with a Medicare card access the health and treatment they may need subsidised in full or in part by Medicare. The first step in obtaining a mental health care plan is visiting your GP for a potential diagnosis of your mental health state. 

In short, a Mental Health Care Plan (MHCP) is intended to help you in a number of ways, including:

  • Help you to set and achieve mental health care goals
  • Communication between your GP and mental health professional
  • Guide everyone working on your mental health goal in the same direction
  • Help you and your doctor plan for long term management of your condition in a clear and concise way
  • Allowing you to monitor and chart your progress throughout treatment
  • Giving patients a cost effective way to access mental health services

Don’t wait to take care of your mental health, get a mental health care plan made up today.

How Does a Care Plan Work?

Your doctor will speak with you about the issues you are facing and the outcomes you wish to achieve and then refer you to one or more allied mental health services for guided treatment. This conversation will likely cover how you are feeling, any symptoms or experiences you have had, and other information that may help better inform a diagnosis, so keeping a diary of your thoughts and feelings can greatly aid this initial consultation.

Depending on the mental health issue you are experiencing, your GP might refer you to a psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker or occupational therapist for up to 10 subsidised individual or group sessions per year. 

A mental health care plan gives people access to up to 10 Medicare subsidised mental health care appointments per year, as well as a framework for other treatments with your referring practitioner or other healthcare specialists. As part of your mental health treatment plan, your GP may prescribe medication to help with disorders such as anxiety and depression while the mental health professional will offer counseling or more specific treatments.

How Much Does a Mental Health Care Plan Cost?

As many psychologists and other mental health professionals do not typically bulk-bill, seeking a course of treatment can seem like a rather daunting prospect for a number of Australians, especially in times of financial uncertainty. The mental health care plan gives a Medicare rebate on the 10 sessions allowed under the plan.

If the mental health professional bulk-bills there is obviously no charge to the patient. If they do charge, the patient must pay the gap between fee and Medicare subsidy.

How Long is a Mental Health Care Plan Valid For?

Although a mental health care plan allows for 10 appointments with a mental health professional in a calendar year, the initial referral made by your GP is only good for the first 6 sessions. After those six appointments it is usually necessary to make an appointment with your GP to follow up on your treatment and get a referral for your final four sessions for the calendar year if they are needed. 

If you feel like you need help with your mental health, don’t put it off. Book an appointment with your doctor and talk to them about putting together a mental health care plan. The easiest and most stress free way to book an appointment with your GP is to do it online at MyHealth1st.com.au  

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