Getting your head right

One in five Australians will encounter a mental health challenge this year. Thankfully, there are many free and low-cost support services that are easily accessible.

Evy Gomo is Clinical Manager at Davidson Trahaire Corpsych (DTC), a company that specialises in workplace mental health. She says there’s a wide range of support options out there, but there is no one ‘right’ resource for people facing difficulties.

“It comes down to factors such as the age, gender, financial circumstances and mental health issue of the individual,” Gomo says. “There are organisations such as Beyond Blue, there are phone counselling services such as Lifeline, there are apps, including my company’s –GreatLife. And people in the workforce often have access to employee assistance programs. All those resources are free and available to anyone. Depending on their situation, people may also be able to see a counsellor, psychologist or psychiatrist at no or little cost.”

Mental health professionals

Some people may visit a psychiatrist, who has a medical degree and can therefore prescribe medications. Other people who are struggling may find it helpful to speak to a psychologist. Provided you have your GP create a mental health care plan and refer you, Medicare will cover much of the cost of 10 sessions a year with a psychologist or another approved health care professional.

Sessions with a psychologist typically last 50 to 60 minutes. Some bulk bill, but usually there will be a gap between what they charge and the Medicare rebate. Many private health funds also cover psychology but, once again, expect to pay a gap fee.

As with doctors, you may have to wait days or weeks to get an appointment, but something can usually be arranged if you need urgent assistance.

Not-for-profit groups

A range of organisations – the Black Dog Institute and Beyond Blue among them – are working to improve the mental health of Australians. They’re generally funded by government and donations, so don’t charge anything for most of their services.

These organisations are a great place to access mental health services and resources, and they can point you in the direction of an appropriate mental health professional. Some offer online or telephone support, while others facilitate support groups. They can also provide a range of useful information for people suffering a mental health challenge, as well as their friends, families and co-workers.

Apps and phone counselling

There are now helplines aimed at a range of demographics. There’s Carers Australia for carers; headspace and Kids Helpline for younger Australians; MensLine Australia for men having family or relationship concerns; and QLife for LGBTI Australians. Phone counselling can be helpful when you need a safe and confidential place to talk. The counsellors can also provide education and link you to other health services.

Technological progress being what it is, there are a host of free or inexpensive mental health apps. These can do everything from leading you through anxiety-reducing breathing exercises (ReachOut Breathe) to allowing you to improve your mood (MoodKit) and teaching you mindful meditation (Smiling Mind).

Interested in developing a healthier mind and body? From ways to unwind to getting fit for free, there are plenty of ideas at Common Cents.