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Low cost or free mental health services

3-minute read

If you have a mental health condition that needs treatment, you might be able to get help with payment through a government program.

If you qualify for the Better Access initiative, you will be able to receive a Medicare rebate for selected mental health services.

Your GP can also refer you to psychological services through the local Primary Health Networks. These have funding to provide services to populations in their area deemed to be at high risk or that have poor access to mental health support. Ask your GP if you can access these services.

Who can use the Better Access program?

You can use Better Access if your doctor says you are eligible. As a first step, you must have been diagnosed with a mental health condition such as bipolar disorder, depression, psychosis or anxiety.

You will also usually need a Mental Health Treatment Plan developed, with you, by your doctor.

If you have a mental illness, your doctor might refer you to Better Access as a way to improve your treatment at a lower cost to you. The practitioner you are referred to may accept the rebate as the payment, or you may have to pay more than the rebate and then claim the rebate back from Medicare.

People using the Better Access program can have 6 individual and 6 group treatment sessions provided by a GP, other eligible medical practitioner, psychologist, social worker or occupational therapist. Your doctor can then refer you for another 4 treatment sessions if they think it will help.

Under Better Access, you can claim for up to 10 individual and 10 group services each calendar year. Services can be face to face or telehealth consultations.

Extra support is available until 30 June 2022 for people who are experiencing severe or enduring mental health impacts due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They can access an extra 10 sessions, but will need to have a Mental Health Treatment Plan in place.

How do I start?

The first step is to see your doctor. If you can’t see your doctor, any health service should be able to help.

Search for mental health services in your location.

Other mental health services

If you have concerns about your mental illness, you can also contact one of the free counselling services such as:

  • Lifeline (for anyone having a personal crisis) — call 13 11 14 or chat online
  • Beyond Blue (for support and information about mental health) — call 1300 22 4636 or chat online
  • Kids Helpline (24/7 phone and online chat for young people aged 5-25 years) — call 1800 55 1800
  • Suicide Call Back Service (anyone thinking about suicide) — call 1300 659 467
  • Head to Health (pop-up services are available in NSW and the ACT) — call 1800 595 212 from Monday to Friday, 8:30am-5pm, except public holidays
  • Head to Help (pop-up services are available in Victoria) — call 1800 595 212 from Monday to Friday, 8:30am-5pm, except public holidays

Sources:

Department of Health (Education guide - Better access to mental health care for general practioners and allied health professionals), Department of Health (Better access to mental health care: fact sheet for patients)

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

Last reviewed: November 2021


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