“I'm lucky to have good, trusting personal relationships with my multi-disciplinary health care team - including my perinatal psychiatrist, endocrinologist, pharmacist and GP, all of whom work closely with me regarding my mental health. I feel very well cared for and supported.” – Jenny
Not all mental health problems need a diagnosis; they can be on a sliding scale of mild to severe. If you’re experiencing symptoms of mental ill-health, there are things you can do yourself to improve your wellbeing. Talking to someone you know and trust can be very helpful. Focusing on self-care and finding peers who have gone through something similar are a few other options.
However, if you would prefer to talk to a professional, there are many options, depending on your needs or preferences. Seeking help help can be an important step towards improving your mental health.
If you or someone you know is in immediate crisis and needs help now, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14, or 000.
Choosing a health professional
Head to Health doesn’t list health professionals or offer clinical diagnoses, but we can point you to some of the best resources that provide detailed information and advice. We can also provide context around some of the health professionals that people often approach for medical and professional advice about their mental health and wellbeing.
Types of professionals
General Practitioners (GPs)
A GP can also be a gateway to other specialists. They can prepare a Mental Health Treatment Plan for you; this plan will help you and your GP work out what services you need and decide on the best treatment options.
The Mental Health Treatment Plan also explains the support and responsibilities of each of the healthcare professionals working with you. This plan could include 12 subsidised sessions per year under the Access To Allied Psychological Services (ATAPS) program, or up to 10 subsidised sessions per year through the Better Access program. Any sessions after that are not subsidised by Medicare, and you will have to pay the full cost. Talking to your GP to understand what you're eligible for can help you decide your next steps.
Psychologists may have their own private practice, but they can also work in schools, hospitals, organisations or community health centres. You can see a psychologist on your own, as a couple, or with family members.
If you have seen a GP first and have prepared a Mental Health Treatment Plan with them, then some or all psychologist's fees will be covered by Medicare and you will pay less. The plan could include up to 10 subsidised sessions per year through the Better Access program. Talking to your psychologist about what you’re eligible for can help you decide your next steps. You could also choose to pay to see a psychologist privately.
You might see a psychiatrist at a private office, in a psychiatric ward of a public hospital, at a private psychiatric hospital, or at a community mental health clinic.
If you have seen a GP first and have prepared a Mental Health Treatment Plan with them, then some or all psychiatrist’s fees will be covered by Medicare and you will pay less. The plan could include up to 10 subsidised sessions per year through the Better Access program. Talking to your psychiatrist about what you’re eligible for can help you decide your next steps.
What can I expect?
Talking about your problems can be difficult, but it can also be the first step to making positive change. It may take time for you to open up, and that is okay. You can choose how much or how little you want to share. It's important that you feel comfortable with the person before sharing your thoughts with them.
Initial diagnoses are not always correct, and it is sometimes a case of trial and error with treatments and medications to get it right. There are lots of ways to improve your mental health and wellbeing, but it’s important to remember that it takes time and patience.
If you decide to seek professional support, it’s important that you find the right person to talk to. Whether you end up talking to a GP, a psychologist, or a psychiatrist, you can - and should - expect them to be respectful and non-judgemental. They are bound by an ethical code of conduct to keep your personal information confidential and to give the best advice for your health. But if they have reason to believe that you are at risk of harming yourself or someone else, they also have a duty of care to report this.
Keep in mind that there are a number of different health professionals apart from GPs, psychiatrists, and psychologists. If you want to explore other options, there are many to choose from; life coaches and counsellors are a few examples.
Seeking online support
Not everyone is comfortable talking to someone face-to-face, and that's okay. Online resources can be convenient, private and effective, and many are free as well. You can find websites with helpful information, use apps and programs to build skills and track progress, share stories in online forums, or talk to a professional through phone, chat, and email services.
If you're not sure exactly what you're looking for, Sam the Chatbot can guide you in the right direction.