Finding treatment for depression

Both Medicare and extras can help if you’re dealing with depression

Depression is a feeling of sadness or low mood that doesn't go away. Healthy people can get sad or be in a bad mood, but they can usually snap out of it or move through it. Depressed people not only have trouble doing that, but for a lot of them, their mood can get so low that they describe it as going to "a dark place" or “feeling numb”.

Depression is often grouped with anxiety when discussing mental illnesses. Depression can often be much more serious than anxiety because low mood and despair can lead to thoughts of suicide if these feelings spiral out of control.

What are the symptoms of depression?

The symptoms of depression are not always easy to spot because a depressed person's mood doesn't necessarily change overnight. In most cases, it's a gradual process and it only becomes clear later that certain changes in behaviour were the result of depression. That said, listed below are some signs you or someone you know could be depressed. Remember, this is not a diagnosis and you should check with your doctor if you think you might be depressed:

  • You stop doing activities you used to enjoy.
  • You stop accepting people's invitations to hang out.
  • You rely on drugs or alcohol to lift your mood.
  • You're not getting your work done.
  • You have problems sleeping.
  • You get tired easily.
  • You stop eating and lose weight.
  • You overeat.
  • You use self-blame and other negative self-talk ("It’s all my fault", "I'm worthless").

How can you deal with depression?

If you think you are suffering from depression, you should see a GP as a first step. Your GP can help structure a well-rounded treatment plan that will treat your depression. There are also a number of lifestyle changes you can make that could help lift your mood. Here are a few:

  • Reach out. Get back in touch with family and friends you may have recently been ignoring. Even if you're not comfortable talking with them about your current challenges, you're still strengthening that feeling of connection that many depressed people are missing.
  • Get active. Depression has the tendency to make you tired and not feel like doing much. Even just a little bit of physical activity every day can help boost your mood and reverse the trend toward tiredness.
  • Treat yourself. Depression can lead to negative self-talk, so demonstrate to yourself that you deserve better. Treat yourself to a meal at your favourite restaurant or to that book you've been wanting to read.
  • Get some sun. Sunlight has been proven to boost mood, so go out for some fresh rays for a couple of minutes every day.
Support is available

If you are experiencing mental health issues or suicidal feelings contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or BeyondBlue 1300 224 636. If it is an emergency please call 000.

How does private health insurance support depression?

Private health insurance can help with your anxiety or depression treatment in two ways, one through your hospital cover and one through your extras cover:

  • Therapy cover. Many extras policies will cover you for a few sessions with a trained psychologist. Therapy is most effective when it is ongoing, so you'll want all the help you can get to cover these weekly sessions. By using extras cover alongside the therapy rebates Medicare offers, the cost can become quite manageable.
  • Inpatient psychiatric treatment. If you have a mental illness that requires treatment in a hospital, private health cover can offer additional support. It allows you to choose your hospital and your doctor plus gives you your own private room. These perks can make a huge difference to someone going through deep depression or anxiety.

What happens during counselling?

Counselling for anxiety usually refers to sessions with a trained psychologist, a doctor who helps people develop strategies to help them cope with their mental conditions. It usually involves a minimum of two to three one-hour sessions attended once a week or once a fortnight. Some people find their therapists so helpful that they'll continue seeing them for years.

A psychologist doesn't diagnose illnesses or prescribe medicine (all of that will be done by your GP or psychiatrist). They are more concerned with your behaviour and attitude. Psychologists have a few techniques they can use to help you change your behaviours and attitudes. Your psychologist may use one or more of these techniques during your course of treatment.

Examples include cognitive behaviour therapy, which helps you change your unhelpful thought and behaviour patterns, and psychoanalysis, which helps you understand how your unconscious mind influences your behaviour and attitudes.

Some people refer to counselling as "talk therapy". Although this phrase undersells it a little bit, it does kind of explain what to expect. During your sessions, you get the opportunity to talk about your issues to someone who listens well and who can provide expert advice.

How can you find the best health insurance for depression?

Government reforms passed in 2018 make it easier for you to get mental health treatment using private cover. The biggest improvement is that you can now upgrade form a policy that doesn't cover mental health to one that does without having to serve any waiting periods. The reforms also forbid your insurer from limiting the number of times per year you can get a specific treatment like transcranial magnetic stimulation. So now you can get all the treatment you need.

To make sure you are getting the cover you need, pay attention to how the policies you are considering treat the following:

  • What are the benefit limits? A therapy session can cost $100 or more, so an extras policy with a $200 psychology limit won't go far. Check your benefits limits to see if it offers the amount you need.
  • Do you have combined benefit limits? Some extras policies let you combine the limits for all your extras. For example, instead of $200 for dental, $200 for psychology and $200 for optical, you'd get $600 in total and you can apply that toward those three services however you want. So you could put it all toward psychology if that was more important to you than the other two.
  • What happens if you use out-of-network providers? Your extras policy may give you a larger rebate if you see a psychologist in your insurer's network. This may benefit you if it is a large network and it includes a number of good psychologists near you. However, if you can't find a psychologist you like in your health fund's network, then make sure you can live with any reduced payout you'd receive by going outside the network.

Picture: Unsplash

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