Written by Donna Cameron
As we all close the door on 2020 and enter the year 2021, there are expectations and hope for a year free of restrictions and regulations. Unfortunately, this cannot be promised as the COVID-19 word has not yet disappeared. This is the perfect time to look at what has changed in the world of mental health and how these changes can benefit you.
The year 2020 allowed for increased funding provided for the Mental Health sector. This has led to more advertising, more resources, and, most importantly, more Medicare rebated sessions for everybody to access.
Unfortunately, some people have previously felt that seeing a psychologist or mental health worker was shameful and not to be mentioned. The conversation about mental health has now become louder, allowing the ‘average Jo and Joanne’ to hear about the benefits of seeking help and the importance of taking these steps even when they thought their issues were small. The benefits of simple self-care activities are understood and the development of websites and apps with strategies for people to use at the touch of a button now exist.
When Covid-19 first started I was asked the question “who out of your clients, are you the most concerned about during this pandemic?” My answer was that I was not the most concerned about my regular clients, as they had already taken the leap to seek help and support for the issues they were going through.
I was concerned about the people out there who felt that seeing a Psychologist was only for the people, who, in their words, “really needed it”. These were the people who, for the first time in their lives, were going through changes with their employment, restrictions to their usual life activities and cancellations of future plans, and I was worried about them. I was concerned that they would not know how to access the help they needed to develop a few simple strategies to help them through this adjustment period. With Mental Health more in the spotlight during 2020, many of these people were reached and now know how to access this help.
Telehealth has been a huge change in the world of Mental Health. Prior to this pandemic, the only way you could access any of your rebated sessions was if you were in the room with your Psychologist or Mental health professional. This simple task was often difficult for clients suffering from phobias and unable to leave their home, or even clients who were just having a bad day and could not get out of bed. In 2021, telehealth will continue to allow clients to have these sessions at any time in the comfort of their own home.
This new initiative also opens the door for the busy office worker to find a time with their mental health worker during their lunch break, thus making more times available as the after-work times are often limited. It is also perfect for the stay at home parent who does not have a babysitter. In remote locations, this makes mental health help so much more accessible as people now have a whole country full of mental health workers just one phone call away.
The most exciting change moving into 2021 is the extension of the Medicare funded sessions. Prior to this change, clients could only access 10 rebated sessions per calendar year. This did not even allow for one session per month and certainly did not allow time to personalize strategies that could help each client. This number has now doubled allowing more time and more care for each patient. Of course we would all love more, but this is a fantastic start and is set to be around for at least the next two years.
For the world of mental health, the message moving forward into 2021 is that health professionals are now more affordable, more accessible, and ready to help everybody no matter where you are located. You do not have to be ’crazy’ to reach out for help. In our busy world with regulations and restrictions seemingly changing daily, now is the time to learn about these changes to mental health support so that you can access the available help if you need.
We always need to look for the silver lining, and for the world of mental health, this was our silver lining to help us move forward into 2021.
Happy New Year everybody. Let’s keep the conversation going and make this the year to focus on our Mental Health.