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.
Don’t start me on the Medicare system, that will only get worse. I’m glad you are out of the revolving door but as you point out, adequate care is often out of reach for people, and if this is due to financial reasons, then something is wrong.
Lacking access to proper care and resources is not good enough, when the reason is either financial or not knowing where to turn. As you say Tegan, being ready is not good enough if they don’t jump in.
Yes, that’s full one. And frightening. Watching money leave health is not a good thing. I studied psychology, and a lot of the people I was studying with were social workers or similar, who were retraining so they could practice clinical psychology privately. But as you say, private treatment is becoming less and less accessible. For a while it was very well subsidised. .
I agree about an issue to access of appropriate services. I am very lucky where I live to at least have access to free relationship counselling through the neighbourhood centre, which I know is not about depression, but access to any help is important and to see these sort of services where we were able to get an appointment for the following week of calling was such a relief. As for psychologists, well it isn’t easy to afford them especially if you have other appointments/costs etc that need tending to first. I absolutely agree about how useless (although the 10 appointments are a huge monetary relief for what they do provide) the 10 appointments are. If you are lucky enough to find a psychologist that will bulk bill you for those appointments, they are often limited to monthly appointments for you as they are losing money themselves. Something really does need to be done and it isn’t just the ‘patients’ that are affected by this. I read of Matthew Reilly’s wife (a couple of years ago now) who was a psychologist and the lack of funding (and I can only assume her ability to help her patients as a result) really affected her. I have added the links to the Australian Story interview with Matthew Reilly himself where he talks about his wife and her battle with clinical depressions, but it is in the mamamia article that he refers to how the lack of funding for mental health affected her. Now I’m not saying it was the cause of her clinical depression or her choice to end her life, but I can’t help but wonder how much it really affected her too. The government is turning its back on the very people who they employ to provide support and professional help to people in need.
Sorry, a bit of a rant in the end there, but my point was also that it isn’t just those who need to seek help that are affected by the governments choices when it comes to mental health.
You make a very good point here, Tegan! So much is said about the importance of reaching out for help, but sometimes even when you do try, it is not a simple process and you still have to wait weeks to get in to see a psychologist. I have been one of the fortunate ones, as I have been in the public system for many years now, and haven’t had too many bad experiences…Unfortunately I was very, very unwell when I was first referred, so I suppose I may have been viewed as an urgent case ~ but what about those who are struggling but trying to reach out for help before they get worse? Do they have to reach crisis point before they are treated as more of a priority? For those in the middle like this, too many seem to slip between the cracks and end up taking drastic action, which then surely places more pressure on the system, especially if they require hospitalization? Let alone if they don’t make it this far and end up taking their own lives 🙁 Which, aswell as being tragic, would also necessitate an autopsy and an investigation into the professionals who may have had a duty of care to this patient… It seems to just spiral down unnecessarily… If only there was more funding made available for mental health! But I suppose all sectors of the health department probably wish for help too!