How do I get a mental health care plan?

mental health plan will help you to get back on track

What is a Mental Health Plan?

A GP Mental Health Treatment Plan (GPMHTP) , also known simply as a mental health plan, is a specific service provided by a GP under medicare that enables a patient to access medicare rebatable mental health care services. So it becomes much more affordable to see, for example, a psychologist for 6 to 10 sessions.

Many patients seeking a referral to a psychologist already know that a mental health care plan will enable them to see a psychologist under medicare. The rules stipulate that a patient may have six sessions rebated by medicare, with up to ten sessions with an additional GP referral letter following the initial six sessions. Few psychologists will provide the service without a gap fee but the scheme does certainly make the service far more affordable.

A mental health plan is not an automatic outcome though most patients who seek help do fit the medicare criteria – namely that there is a mental health disorder as identified by an international classification. The most common diagnoses are depression, anxiety, social anxiety, phobia, obsessive compulsive disorder and bipolar disorder.

What should I expect at an appointment for a mental health plan?

The General Practitioner will provide an empathetic environment in which to carry out an assessment which involves a double appointment.

The GP has undertaken specific additional mental health skills training recognised through the General Practice Mental Health Standards Collaboration.

It is often difficult for patients to seek help for any mental health issues for the first time. Usually, the problem will have been developing for quite a long time. Thankfully, there is effective treatment for a huge variety of mental health problems, and the starting point is an assessment and diagnosis.

The mental health care plan is also an opportunity to discuss & look at ways in which the issue can be helped. There are usually a number of options, typically seeing a psychologist or other therapist, and/or considering medication. However, it’s important also to discuss any relevant issues around, for example, recreation, work, social activities, exercise, relaxation. Standard psychological treatment is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) but there are a large number of options. In terms of CBT, there are also some excellent well validated (& free) online resources that take you through online CBT, help you learn techniques that make life easier, and can get you off to a head-start whilst waiting for your therapy appointment or be useful in their own right.

Who Can I be referred to under a mental health plan?

Medicare states that the referral may be made to:

  • Clinical psychologists providing psychological therapies; or
  • Appropriately trained GPs or allied mental health professionals providing focussed psychological strategy (FPS) services

The ranges of services varies from location to location and the decision is taken with the patient.

There’s a useful FAQ page on the Australian Government Health Website.

The following paragraphs are taken from a Mental Health Plan Medicare provider factsheet (2014):

“Eligible patients can claim up to ten Medicare rebates for individual services provided by clinical psychologists” …. “Eligible patients can also claim up to ten Medicare rebates per calendar year for group services provided by” … and

“Following the initial course of treatment (a maximum of six services but may be less depending on the referral and the patient’s clinical need) GPs can refer patients for further sessions to a maximum of ten services per calendar year”

What online help is available for mental health issues?

There’s a huge amount of online resources for people with mental health problems. The options and range can be overbearing so here are a few select Australian online resources.

The following websites provide reliable Information and Support:

The following portals provide evidence-based excellent online treatment programs:

  • Moodgymn runs an excellent and free online program. It is of proven value for people with moderate depression and stress. It has been developed by The Australian National University and is used across the world.
  • MyCompass is run by Australia’s Black Dog Institute at The Prince of Wales Hospital, NSW.

Before getting too carried away about online support, let’s be realistic. It seems a bit simplistic to hand over login details to someone with depression and say they’ll feel better doing therapy in front of a screen. The truth is that there is good evidence that online therapy can be helpful. However, it turns out that the reason for this evidence is that the studies included a lot of one-to-one support from the researchers. A large study published in late 2015 looked at adults with depression who were randomised to one of three treatment groups: usual GP care, online therapy with moodgymn, or online therapy with beating the blues (a UK portal). This was a practical study looking at online CBT in the real world. At 4 months and 2 years there was no difference in outcomes. The point is that this study involved fairly minimal support from the study technicians (a weekly phone call) whereas the “positive” studies involved a lot more personal input from the study technicians.

What Apps are recommended?

There are a large number of good Apps to choose from and the range of apps is overwhelming. Here’s a short selection of apps that are officially recommended by the UK National Health Service, and are likely to be very useful.

Mindfulness by digipill is an IOS App that facilitates Guided Relaxation. Spoken by the only professor of clinical hypnosis in the UK – and a teaching fellow at Oxford University Medical School. Mindfulness is a very mainstream and evidence-based form of active relaxation.

The Anxiety self help App called SAM is available on both Android and IOS, and developed in collaboration with the University of Bristol.

MoodKit is an IOS App developed by two clinical Psychologists and incorporates evidence-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

How can I manage my social media time?

Social media is here to stay – it allows us to communicate with a wide range of people & friends anytime & anywhere, and has the potential to add richness to our lives.

The problem is that we’re not getting any more time in our already packed schedules, and social media “takes up” that would previously have been used for things like reading, or even a quiet reflection.

Research also shows that most social media posts are about the fluffy stuff in people’s lives. There’s nothing wrong about this – most of us take photos of the good stuff in our life, and not the bad ones. Just be aware of this, that’s all. Research shows that negative emotions are a common experience on facebook. Don’t think that your friend’s facebook life is the same as their real life – or you’re likely to feel negative emotions like failure.

  • What can you do to manage your social media time? Here are some tips.
    Decide how much time you want to spend on social media – and stick to it. It’s a good idea to set a timer.
  • Be careful if you post stuff when you are angry or frustrated – or inebriated! Have a cool off period before you send it.
  • Don’t go onto social media within 30 minutes (preferably 60 minutes) of turning the lights off.
  • Turn off all but essential phone notifications.

Be aware of how you feel when using social media. If it’s making you feel annoyed or sad or frustrated or disappointed or irritated or … then give it a break and do something else for a while!