This is a final call for all Australians to give your feedback to the National Mental Health Commission review of all mental health care services.
Please visit the following link to lodge your submission and follow the prompts: https://consultations.health.gov.au/national-mental-health-commission/2014_mh_review
Here are five points we think you should cover:
10 visits are not enough
The evidence from research is clear. The recommended psychological treatment for common mental health disorders, like depression, anxiety, and PTSD, is to provide at least 15 to 20 visits of psychological care. Whether we look at randomised clinical trials (RCTs), or dose-response studies, or manualised treatment guides for specific mental health disorders, essentially the same results are found. Ten sessions are not enough for most people to reach a stable point of recovery. By comparison, the Medicare system currently offers 50 sessions of psychiatric care, which is more focused on medical treatment. Our system should be equally supportive of medical and psychological treatment options.
The two-tiered system is unfair to patients
In the current Medicare system, a patient receives less support if their preferred therapist is not a clinical psychologist. There are a diverse range of highly skilled and experienced mental health professionals available in Australia. Patients should be given equivalent support to receive psychological care. Medicare support needs to be equitable for therapists delivering the same psychological service. In principle, therapists with advanced qualifications and experience can and should be recognised and harnessed on a level playing field alongside one another. We need a system of mental health care that provides due respect for the diverse skills each mental health professional brings to each patient and values each person’s right to seek care from a professional they trust.
Length of treatment cannot be determined by symptom severity alone
As the inventor of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) recently explained, the duration of psychological treatment depends on a range of factors. Symptom severity is just one consideration. We must also consider the learning curve of each patient, their personality, the presence or absence of support in a person’s life, and whether the target problem occurs in isolation or alongside other mental health issues. All of these factors weigh in on the question of how long therapy should take. Making further treatment dependant on symptom severity only serves to stigmatise help seeking behaviour.
Medicare is the most accessible national program and needs greater support
Medicare reaches more people in real human terms than any other program. When it comes to mental health care services, there is no other program in Australia which comes close to providing the same level of psychological support as the Medicare system presently does. It is true that the Medicare system can be improved to reach more people in rural areas and in some niche sectors of the population. Programs like ATAPS are useful and should still be in place to help people who fall through the cracks. However, when we look at the number of people reached in terms of actual human beings, programs like ATAPS just dont reach anywhere near the same number as Medicare does. Not even close.
The GP referral requirement creates more red tape
People should be able to seek psychological care immediately when they need help. If the first person they speak with is a GP then that is a good place to start. At the same time, if they make contact with a psychologist first, that should not put them at a disadvantage. In the current Medicare system, people need to see a GP first. After consulting with our group we have generated a model of access to psychological care which allows people to make that first contact with a psychologist. Take a look if you want to find out more.
Once again, I can’t urge you enough to PLEASE visit the review and have your say. You only have until Monday to speak up and be heard. Every voice makes a difference!
Here is the link again: https://consultations.health.gov.au/national-mental-health-commission/2014_mh_review