It’s a tough time for everyone right now but for people facing mental health issues, the COVID-19 pandemic and all its roll-on effects have only escalated those feelings. Fortunately, there’s a tool available to help you search for psychologists offering telehealth appointments around Australia.
The coronavirus pandemic has affected Australian society immensely since the first case was detected in early 2020. It’s shut down services, forced people to stay at home and resulted in the loss many jobs.
While there is a real concern for the physical health of millions of Australians, the immediate impact the virus is having on the country’s mental health is worrying experts too.
In July, Professor Jane Fisher, a mental health expert at Monash University, told Lifehacker Australia that severe lockdowns, like the one Melbourne is experiencing, will have detrimental effects on mental health.
“I think if we go into a more severe lockdown, the psychological consequences will be inevitably more severe, because people will begin to experience the real impact of loss of income but also loss of hope that they will ever get an income again, loss of capacity to act with agency to go and solve some of these difficulties,” Professor Fisher said in July.
“I think one of the things contributing to this anxiety is the uncertainty running through our minds: ‘we just don’t really know why and we don’t know for how long’.”
To help those struggling under lockdown or just generally dealing with the world’s gloom right now, psychologists are offering telehealth appointments to deal with the demand.
How to find psychologists offering telehealth appointments
Some people have said local psychologists are booked out for weeks in advance, which is concerning given the stress many are under. Thankfully, the Australian Psychological Society (APS) offers a handy search function that allows you to look up psychologists that offer telehealth appointments.
You can search by name, issue or location and once the results turn up, filter by ‘telehealth’ or ‘Medicare’ to find a list of psychologists you can contact.
In late March 2020, any Medicare-eligible Australian was given access to telehealth services, including psychologists, during the outbreak in order to limit the physical need to attend a clinic. It’s due to finish in September but the APS has called on the government to extend the service given we’re still facing the threat of further outbreaks and subsequent restrictions.
What if I can’t afford a psychologist right now?
While it’s easier to find and access a psychologist, the problem for many still remains the cost of the service. Psychology services aren’t cheap and given we’re facing a downturn and families are dealing with loss of income, it’s easy to file it as an unnecessary expense.
Under Medicare, eligible patients can receive a mental health care plan, which provides up to 10 psychology sessions with Medicare rebates. In order to receive this, you’ll need to talk to your GP about how you’re feeling and the doctor will assess whether you can be put on the plan.
As Healthdirect outlines, you’ll be able to receive six appointments but getting the remaining four will require visiting your GP again for an assessment.
It’s not ideal but it’s a good start for many finding the cost of a psychologist untenable during these times.
For those in Victoria facing a second set of strict lockdowns, the federal government has extended the amount of sessions under Medicare to 20.
As for the rest of Australia, we’ll just have to wait and see.
If you or someone you know is in need of crisis support or someone to talk to, contact the Lifeline Australia hotline at 13 11 14, the Suicide Call Back Service at 1300 65 94 67 or the Kids Helpline (for ages 5-25) at 1800 55 1800.
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