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Blog: how to get a mental health care plan

13 Sep 2018
Having a plan can make a huge difference to your wellbeing
Have you been less happy than you’d like to be? Getting a mental health care plan can make a big difference to your headspace. A plan can support you as you help yourself:
  • feel more peace
  • think clearer
  • work through challenges
  • improve relationships
  • achieve your goals
  • cope with tricky situations.
Find out more about what a mental health care plan is and how to get one – it’s heaps easier than you think.

What is a mental health care plan?

A mental health care plan is a support plan for someone who is going through mental health issues. If a doctor agrees that you need additional support, you and the doctor will make the plan together.

A mental health care plan might include:

  • A referral to an expert, like a psychologist
  • The types of mental health care that can support you
  • Other strategies to improve and maintain your mental health, like our tips for a healthy headspace.

If you have a mental health care plan, the Government will pay some or all of the cost of up to 10 sessions with a mental health expert in a calendar year. You can get that through the Medicare rebate.

What do I do to get a mental health care plan?

First, book an appointment with your doctor. If you don’t have a regular GP (general practitioner) it’s easy to find one. When you book, tell them you want to talk about a mental health care plan. That way, the doctor will know in advance and be able to set enough time.

Then, at the appointment, talk to the doctor about what’s been going on. It helps to be as open as possible. If you’re feeling nervous, there’s no need to worry – that’s a really normal response, but doctors see people for mental health care plans for all the time. They’re trained to listen, and except for in some special circumstances (which you can ask them about beforehand) what you tell them is confidential.

Your doctor might ask you to fill out a questionnaire about how you’ve been feeling to work out the best support for you.

A lot of GPs will ask you to come back for another appointment before they decide whether a mental health care plan is the right thing for you.

In some situations, your GP might refer you to a psychiatrist (a doctor who specialises in mental health) or a paediatrician (a doctor who specialises in young people) for a clearer diagnosis.

What support can I get?

Expert support can empower you to make big changes to how you feel and cope. Having someone to help you find strategies to work through stuff will make you better at managing life's ups and downs. Types of support you may be able to get with a mental health care plan include:

  • one-on-one sessions with a psychologist
  • group psychologist sessions
  • sessions with a social worker or another allied health practitioner.

Your doctor can help you find experts in your area.

If you have a mental health care plan, the Medicare rebate covers you for a certain amount of the value of your session. If your psychologist charges more, you’ll need to pay the difference – the “gap”. Some psychologists offer cheaper visits for concession holders, so if you’re a student or have a health care card, make sure you do your research. If you're in year 11 or 12, you might be eligible for extra support.

It’s important to remember you won’t be able to get a referral for all 10 sessions for the year in one go. Your plan will cover you for six sessions. After that, you can go back to your doctor for a review, where you’ll talk about whether it would be helpful to have further sessions.

How do I prepare?

Before you go to your appointment with your GP or your mental health professional, it’s a good idea to write down a list of the things you want support with. It’s normal to feel nervous. That might mean you forget something you wanted to talk about or find something hard to bring up. A list is a really helpful memory prompt and a good backup. You could even give it to the professional so they can take the lead and ask you questions about what it says. Just remember that they’ve probably seen people in similar situations before.

Well done – getting a mental health care plan is a massive step towards being happier, healthier and more connected.