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Coronavirus: Where to get mental health support

If you're in a hard place at the moment, there are plenty of ways you can get mental health support.

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As of Monday 30th March 2020, bulk-billing will be available for online and over-the-phone appointments with eligible mental health services. Telehealth services will be available to all Australians, allowing many to receive support and treatment remotely with a mental health professional. Private health insurance also now provides one on one psychology teleconsultations. On top of this, there are a number of other ways you can seek support during the coronavirus lockdown.

Telehealth - what services you can get and how

Telehealth or teleconsultations use audio or video to discuss symptoms, advice and diagnosis without having to go into your GP or to hospital. It's intended to help avoid overwhelming clinics and hospitals with patients who can be treated remotely and help minimise the spread of coronavirus. Both government and health funds have expanded telehealth coverage to include mental health services. You can get support from the following:

Medicare

The Australian government has announced $669 million in support to expanding Medicare subsidies for telehealth services, which lets GPs and other health professionals to consult with patients over video calls rather than face-to-face.

Under the Better Access initiative, anyone with a mental health issue is covered for up to 10 sessions with a qualified psychiatrist. To be eligible, you'll need to get your GP to refer you and put together a mental health treatment plan for you. Like the sessions themselves, this will now be done over the phone or telehealth. Remember that you'll still be covered for just 10 sessions.

Currently, counsellors are not part of the Medicare scheme. You can only obtain a Medicare rebate for services provided by psychologists, occupational therapists or social workers (with a GP referral).

Private health insurance

A number of health funds will cover Australians' access to teleconsultations for psychology services. You don't need to see a GP first or have a mental health treatment plan. You also won't be limited to 10 sessions but your plan will have a set dollar limit which you are allowed to claim throughout the year.

Mental health services are included with extras policies. With extras or packaged covers, your health fund can pay towards the cost of psychology, counselling and online CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) under their mental health category.

Beyond Blue hotline

Mental health organisation Beyond Blue is providing a dedicated coronavirus wellbeing helpline. You can contact them on 1300 22 4636.

How private health insurance is covering telehealth

Private health funds are still working to expand telehealth consultations and services for mental health services further. However, health funds are now covering Australians for telehealth psychology services while the COVID-19 lockdown is in place. There are a couple of caveats though. These include:

  • The patient must be undergoing an existing course of treatment, and have seen the psychologist providing the telehealth consultation over the past six months.
  • For new patients, the telepsychology service must have been recommended by their GP
  • The service must be delivered before 30 September 2020
  • The service must be undertaken in accordance with Australian Psychological Society guidelines.
  • As always, you might have to serve a waiting period. Usually this is around 2 months.

Health funds offering telehealth for mental health services

The table below lists some of the private health insurance providers covering you for a number of telehealth mental health services. With the government's recent announcement, there's likely to be many more in the coming weeks. Speak directly to your health fund about telehealth services for more information.

ProviderWhat's they coverContact
BupaBupa will reimburse you up to a certain amount for the cost of psychology, counselling and Online CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) with most extras policies.To find out more about their telehealth services, call 1300 030 238 to speak with one of their health professionals. You can also register now for a call back Telehealth service.
MedibankMedibank has a number of mental health professionals and counsellors available to speak to online, with services including comprehensive assessment, triage and referral, crisis intervention and response coordination, case management and telephone counselling. No waiting period on psychology services (this may differ for online services).Call 1800 644 325 or chat online.
HCFOnline video sessions with a mental health professional, access to digital prescriptions, support and treatment for anxiety, depression and stress & more.If you need to speak to someone now, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. You can sign up online

Where else can I seek mental health support?

As most of us have to dramatically alter the way we live, it's important we know when to seek mental health support. These are some of the places you can find help:

Picture: GettyImages

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