Last Monday night I was in the audience for Q&A when they came to Rockhampton. The focus was on rural mental health and the struggles that we face. There was a lot of great things talked about but one of the that stood out for me was a comment made by Patrick McGorry.
In a response to one of the questions posed, he said that at the moment Australia is poised to provide the best mental health treatment in the developed world. Now that’s a pretty adventurous statement but I do agree with him. Australia is still on the launch pad when it comes to mental health treatment and it’s accessibility. The accessibility is the problem though, there just isn’t enough of it. We have all of these great practitioners and many of them are out of reach for the general population.
I have been accessing treatment for over 12 years now. I have received that treatment from the public system and the private. In the last 2 years I have been seeing a private psychologist and have recently started seeing a private psychiatrist. The difference in treatment is amazing.
The people who treated me in the public system weren’t necessarily bad (although there were some really horrid experiences) as a rule but the treatment just isn’t the same because their case loads are so much heavier. It’s hard to provide long term, personalised treatment when the system you are working in is more focused on a band aid approach.
However the private system, while it has the time and resources to administer adequate treatment, it’s not accessible. Currently the government, through Medicare, provides 10 subsidised sessions per calendar year for you to see an allied mental health practitioner (note that this does not include psychiatrists, they have a different Medicare allowance).
This is disgraceful, the government doesn’t even provide enough sessions for a person to attend one session per month for the entire year, you get cut off at October. Some practitioners will only charge the subsidised amount (it’s around the $80 mark) but there are some who will charge you their full rate, meaning that you will have to fund the gap between their scheduled fee and the subsidy. This means that a lot of people are unable to afford treatment. I’m really one of the lucky ones.
Since I have been able to access private mental health treatment, it’s been a completely different experience. Sessions are geared towards ‘How can we stop this from happening again’, rather than ‘Lets just do this and hope that it helps. I’m no longer stuck in the revolving door of treatment.
As the awareness for mental health issues increase, more and more people are seeking treatment. At the current rate of funding, people are falling through the cracks. They are left in the cold when it comes to treatment, often either unable to access adequate public care, private care being financially nonviable or they simply don’t know how to access that treatment.
Australia might be poised to be one of the best providers of mental health treatment but unless the government takes a leap off the launch pad then I am afraid that the suicide rate will continue to soar.
Linking up with Kirsty for I must confess.