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Australian mental health services

3-minute read

The network of mental health services in Australia is complex. It can be difficult to understand how it all works.

If you need to access a mental health service, it is best to find someone to be your first point of contact. This will usually be a doctor or a community mental health worker. Ideally, it will be someone you can trust and who is available to see you when you want to see them. Your doctor can help guide you to the most appropriate option for you. You can also learn more about mental health professionals here.

Mental health services can be provided in a variety of locations, including your home, medical practices, a hospital or a specialist medical facility.

Emergency care for people with mental health conditions can also be provided by ambulance services. Dial 000 (triple zero) if you require urgent assistance.

Where can I access mental health care?

Your home

Many people with serious mental illnesses receive care in their home. Talk to your doctor or the community mental health service about this.


Specialists and general practitioners (GPs) also provide mental health services.

Community mental health services

Community mental health services are free to consumers. They are generally available for people with severe forms of mental illness.

Pop-up mental health hubs

People of all ages in NSW, the ACT and Victoria who have been affected by the pandemic can access the Australian Government's free mental-health service. It’s called Head to Health in NSW and the ACT, and Head to Help in Victoria.

Call 1800 595 212 from Monday to Friday, between 8:30am and 5pm (except public holidays). A mental-health professional will work with you to meet your needs. This may involve referring you to a pop-up mental-health hub, where you can choose from telehealth or COVID-safe face-to-face appointments with a mental-health professional.

For a list of locations, visit Head to Health (NSW and the ACT) and Head to Help (Victoria).

Specialist mental health services

Many large hospitals also have specialised mental health teams, such as those that provide:

  • old-age psychiatric services
  • child and family services
  • early intervention for psychosis

Psychiatric hospitals

Psychiatric hospitals provide inpatient care to people with serious mental health problems. Most people in a psychiatric hospital are there voluntarily, but some people are kept there under orders from doctors, which are reviewed by the legal system.

Emergency departments

All major public hospitals (and some private hospitals) have an emergency department, where people can receive emergency help for mental health conditions. If you or someone you know are feeling suicidal, have thoughts of harming others or are acutely unwell, you can visit your local emergency department and get help from a doctor or health professional who is specially trained in mental health.


Ambulance services also provide emergency care to people with mental health conditions. Dial triple zero (000) for ambulance assistance.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: November 2021

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