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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 1 of 2 government programs.

If you qualify for the Better Access to Psychiatrists, Psychologists and General Practitioners through the Medicare Benefits Schedule initiative (‘Better Access’), you will be able to receive a Medicare rebate on more than the standard number of sessions for services provided by your doctor, psychiatrist or psychologist.

Your GP can also refer you to psychological services through the local Primary Health Networks. These have funding allocated to them to provide services to populations within their area deemed to be at high risk or have poor access to mental health support. This will be locally dependent, so discuss if you can access these services with your GP.

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. Some conditions, like dementia, are excluded.

You will also usually need a mental health care plan from your doctor.

If you have a mental illness, your doctor might refer you to Better Access as a way of improving 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 six individual and six group treatment sessions by a health professional such as a specially trained doctor (GP), 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 allied mental health services per calendar year.p>

If your doctor thinks it will help, you can get treatment under Better Access again next year.

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 (anyone having a personal crisis) – call 13 11 14 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



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: October 2017

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