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Mental Health Drug & Alcohol Workforce

General Practitioner

A General Practitioner (GP) is often the first port of call for people seeking help when experiencing mental health concerns.

GPs can make a diagnosis, prescribe medication and/or refer you to other specialists, health professionals and support groups. GPs can also rule out any physical health problems that may be contributing to the way you are feeling. When making an appointment with your GP, it is a good idea to arrange a long consultation so that you have plenty of time to discuss your situation

(Reference: Mental Health Commission WA)

How can they help? add

When you have an emotional or mental health concern your GP is a great place to start. They can assess your overall health to make sure there are no physical reasons contributing to the way you are feeling.  A GP can also prepare a mental health plan, refer you to the right mental health professional and prescribe appropriate medicines if required.

Why go to see a GP over a concern that you think will eventually pass?

  • A minor concern could develop into something more serious if ignored.
  • Recurrent concerns (like feeling anxious) can impact on your quality of life and lead to other problems.
  • Seeing a GP regularly can help you to learn more about the support available to you, and helps your GP to better understand your needs.

(Reference: Mental Health Foundation) 

Your GP can also refer you to mental health services, including psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health nurses or public Mental Health Services (Murrumbidgee Local Health District Services).

How do I find one? add

It is important to find a doctor with whom you are comfortable being completely open and honest.

A trusting, long-term relationship with a GP is the best way to ensure you receive consistent, quality healthcare throughout your life.

(Reference: Royal Australian Collage of General Practitioners)

The National Health Services Directory (NHSD) provides easy access to reliable and consistent information about health services for everyone. You can find information about health services such as contact details, location, opening hours, wheelchair access and bulk billing services.

Tips To Make Your Visit a Success add

Your GP wants you to get the most out of your visit to their practice so you leave with all your questions answered. Use the tips below to make your visit a success:

  • Make a list of all the things you want to ask your GP about so you don’t forget anything
  • Be open and honest. Everything you tell your GP is kept confidential
  • Don’t be afraid to ask embarrassing questions, your GP is trained to answer them!
  • If you’ve done some of your own research on the internet before seeing your GP and you’re worried about what it says, print it off and show your GP
  • If you have lots of items you wish to discuss with your GP in one visit, book a longer appointment so neither of you feel rushed
  • If your GP isn’t familiar with your medical history, ensure you let them know about any prior illnesses or family history that may be relevant to your visit.

(Reference: Royal Australian Collage of General Practitioners)

Black Dog Institute – Finding a Mental Health Friendly Doctor 

mindhealthconnect – Talking to your doctor (GP) about mental health

What is a Mental Health Treatment Plan? add

Everyone’s treatment needs are different. Your GP will assess whether the preparation of a Mental Health Treatment Plan is appropriate for you.

When developing a Mental Health Treatment Plan your GP will first assess your presenting concerns, relevant history, assess risk and complete an assessment tool by asking a series of questions. They will then work with you to document your needs, goals, treatment, referrals and relapse prevention plan.

  • Your GP will ask for your consent and will write you a referral to an appropriate mental health professional.
  • Referral options include: 
    Private practitioner
    Better Access (Medicare)
    Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network Commissioned Mental Health Services
  • If you have a mental health treatment plan, you are eligible for Medicare rebates for 10 individual and 10 group sessions with a mental health professional per calendar year under the Better Access Initiative – Fact Sheet For Patients
  • You will need to find out from the mental health professional if they are registered to provide Better Access and if you are required to pay a gap fee. Your GP may refer you to a mental health professional they are aware of, or you can request a referral for one that you know of. The below directories might be able to help you to find a mental health professional with experience in your current situation:
  • Find a Psychologist
  • Find a Psychiatrist
  • Find a Social Worker
  • Find a Private Practice Occupational Therapist

Once you have identified an appropriate mental health professional, contact them directly for any questions about their practice, fees and appointments.

Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network commissions a range of free services across the Murrumbidgee district to assist in improving the mental health of people that would otherwise have little or no access to mental health services, such as Better Access (Medicare).

Psychiatrist

Psychiatrists are medical doctors with at least 11 years of training – usually more.

They first do a medical degree at university. Next they spend at least 1 or 2 years training as a general doctor.

They then complete at least 5 years training in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness.

(Reference: The Royal Australian & New Zealand College of Psychiatrists) 

How can they help? add

Psychiatrists can provide a wide range of treatments, according to the particular problem and what will work best for you and your situation. These include:

  • medication
  • general medical care, including checking your physical health and the effects of medication
  • psychological treatments
  • brain stimulation therapies such as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)

Psychiatrists tend to treat people who need their medical, psychological and social needs considered.

These are usually people with complex conditions, for example:

  • severe depression
  • schizophrenia
  • bipolar disorder

Someone who has attempted suicide or has suicidal thoughts will usually be seen by a psychiatrist.

(Reference: The Royal Australian & New Zealand College of Psychiatrists) 

How do I find one? add

As with all medical specialists, to see a psychiatrist you will need a referral from your GP.

To access an online directory of Psychiatrists in Australia and New Zealand, see: Your Health in Mind – Find a Psychiatrist

Tips To Make Your Visit a Success add

To get the most out of your visit to a psychiatrist so you leave with all your questions answered. Use the tips below to make your visit a success:

  • Make a list of all the things you want to ask your Psychiatrist about so you don’t forget anything
  • Be open and honest. Everything you tell your Psychiatrist is kept confidential
  • Don’t be afraid to ask embarrassing questions, your Psychiatrist is trained to answer them!
  • If you’ve done some of your own research on the internet before seeing your Psychiatrist and you’re worried about what it says, print it off and show it to them
  • If your Psychiatrist isn’t familiar with your family and medical history, ensure you let them know about any prior illnesses or family history that may be relevant to your visit.

Psychologist

Psychologists are tertiary qualified mental health professionals who must be registered with the Psychology Board of Australia and listed with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). Psychologists have a minimum of six years of university training and supervised experience. Psychologists provide assessment and therapy to help people overcome a range of difficulties.

A psychologist could help you lead a happier, more meaningful life. Psychologists provide their expertise by assessing and diagnosing a range of problems, developing strategies and treatments, and offering guidance and support.

Psychologists provide these services in a wide range of public and private settings, including health, mental health, disability, family services, community, schools, corporate and business, education, sport and the performing arts.

(Reference: Australian Psychological Society) 

How can they help? add

There are many reasons why you might see a psychologist. For example, you might be experiencing anxiety, depression, stressful life events or any other mental health difficulty. You might not even know what’s going on, but just feel that you haven’t been ‘right’ or that your life has become more difficult. A psychologist is trained to perform a detailed assessment of your mental health and to identify what’s going on for you.

No matter what your reason for seeking help, it’s important to find a psychologist you can connect with and trust. You may have to meet a few before you find one that clicks for you.

(Reference: Reach Out) 

How do I find one? add

The best place to start is with your GP, who can provide you with a Mental Health Treatment Plan and refer you to a psychologist. Your GP should know of some psychologists in your area, or may recommend that you ring a psychology clinic directly for more information about making an appointment. By getting a referral from your GP, at least some, if not all, of your costs should be covered by Medicare under the Better Access initiative or Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network mental health services – see your GP to find out if you’re are eligible.

(Reference: Reach Out) 

To access an online directory of Psychologists, see: Find a Psychologist

What is it like to see a Psychologist? add

The first time you visit any psychologist they should always talk to you about confidentiality, which is your right to privacy, and basically means that anything you discuss with them will remain private between the two of you.

The next thing a psychologist will do is complete an assessment of your mental health, by asking you a series of questions about what’s happening in your life, as well as asking for details about your background, family life and personal history. The assessment is an important first step, as it will help your psychologist understand what’s troubling you and, more importantly, how to help you. They’ll discuss with you a plan for continuing, including how often they recommend you visit them, and for how long.

Normally, they will recommend that you visit them weekly or fortnightly for a period of time. The length of time for your treatment can vary from a few weeks to many months, depending on what you need. An appointment usually lasts about 50 minutes but can sometimes go for longer.

(Reference: Reach Out) 

Australian Psychological Society – Find a Psychologist 

Department of Health – Better Access – Fact Sheet

Reach Out – Psychologists

Mental Health Nurse

Mental health nurses are registered nurses who have specialist qualifications in mental health. They work with psychiatrists and general practitioners to monitor a person’s mental state, manage medication and improve links to other health professionals. These services are provided in a range of settings, such as clinics or in a person’s home. Mental Health Nurses must be registered with the NSW Nurses Board.

(Mental Health Commission WA)

Mental health nurses might have also completed further study in mental health recognised by the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses.

How can they help? add

A Mental Health Nurse can provide therapeutic interventions and treatment to support social, physical and mental health, including: Medication education and management, being a liaison point between GPs and psychiatrists, monitoring mood, and providing counselling to manage and contain psychological distress.

(Reference: Australian College of Mental Health Nurses) 

The mental health nurse can:

  • work with you to plan your recovery
  • help educate you, your family and your doctor about your mental illness and its treatment
  • support you to talk to your doctor about mental health
  • provide counselling and strategies to deal with emotional difficulties and stress
  • help you deal with your symptoms and any medication you take
  • link with health professionals involved in your care, like your doctor, a psychologist or psychiatrist, to make sure you get the most appropriate treatment
  • help with services like Centrelink, housing and community programs
  • talk to your family and support people, if you want
  • help you review your mental health care plan with your doctor.

(Reference: mindhealthconnect) 

How do I find one? add

Ask your GP or Psychiatrist for a referral or to find out if you are eligible for Murrumbidgee PHNs Team Care Service.

Australian College of Mental Health Nurses

mindhealthconnect

Allied Health

There are other allied health professionals that help people with mental health concerns. Two of the most common include Social Workers and Occupational Therapists.

Mental Health Social Workers help individuals to resolve psychological difficulties, and the associated social and other environmental problems, and improve their quality of life. Social workers recognise the broader implications on an individual living with a mental illness and the impact on friends, family, work and education (Reference: Australian Association of Social Workers).

Occupational Therapists assess and treat people who, due to illness or injury are limited in their ability to undertake everyday activities. They assist people to regain lost functions, develop their abilities and social skills, as well as maintain and promote independence in their everyday lives to enhance health and wellbeing (Reference: Occupational Therapy Australia).

How can they help? add

Social Worker can provide therapy, casework, advocacy, mediation or group-work to individuals, couples, or families to address difficulties associated with mental illness. They also provide people with information about services that can assist them (Reference:jobs guide).

An Occupational Therapist can conduct tests to assess functional, psychological, and physical capabilities, plan therapeutic programmes for individuals and design activities that improve an affected function, and help individuals to regain personal care skills and  assist people to gain or regain skills in social, leisure and work environments through graded individual or group therapy and activity programmes (Reference: jobs guide).

How do I find one? add

Ask your GP for a referral or to access a directory see below:

Australian Association of Social Workers – Find a Social Worker 

Occupational Therapy Australia – Find a Private Practice OT

Australian Association of Social Workers

Occupational Therapy Australia

Drug and Alcohol Worker

Drug and Alcohol Workers are qualified health professionals from different professional backgrounds with relevant clinical experience in a drug and alcohol treatment setting. They may have trained as a social worker, psychologist, nurse, occupational therapist or other profession relevant to the drug and alcohol field.

How can they help? add

Drug and Alcohol Workers provide a range of services to people (and their partners, families and carers) whose physical and or mental health and personal and social functioning is at risk due to substance use.

Drug and Alcohol Workers can:

  • Provide information about the effects and risks of substance use
  • Help you to understand what might trigger you to use a substance
  • Help you to consider the environment you use the substance in and make it safe
  • Provide information about the effects of combining more than one substance and how substances might interact with medication you’re already taking
  • Help you to access clean injecting equipment if you’re using needles
  • Help you to reduce or cease using substances
  • Offer counselling or therapy to address issues that may have led to or resulted from your substance use

How do I find one? add

  • Ask your GP for a referral to a local drug and alcohol service best suited to your needs or
  • Call AccessLine on 1800 800 944 (free) to help guide you to the information or treatment you are seeking.
  • For information on MPHN commissioned Drug and Alcohol services click here

Consumer Peer Workers

Consumer Peer Workers are individuals with a lived experience of mental illness and/or substance dependency and recovery. They are employed by a service to promote wellness, provide advocacy and support to consumers, and to reduce the stigma and discrimination in services and in the community.

Many Consumer Peer Workers have a qualification or have completed training in their area of speciality. For example, Mental Health Consumer Peer Workers may have completed a Certificate IV qualification in Mental Health Peer Work.

How can they help? add

Consumer Peer Workers are able to support people they are working with by offering personal encouragement, empathy, hope, consideration, respect and empowerment from the vantage point of a person who has experienced mental illness or substance use issues.

Consumer Peer Workers can:

  • Support people who access a service to have more involvement in their care and an improved experience of care
  • Assist with resolving issues or seeking clarity about a person’s care and treatment options
  • Help to restore hope and personal power and inspire people to move forward with their lives. For example, sharing stories of recovery with a person accessing mental health or drug and alcohol services, facilitating a peer support group, helping a person to build the confidence to make their own choices
  • Assist consumers to understand their rights and responsibilities when accessing a mental health service and advocate on their behalf in decisions relating to their care
  • Assist with improved mental health, social and emotional wellbeing, and physical health. For example, supporting access to services in the community and/or organising group activities which support wellbeing (e.g. walking groups)
  • Provide education from a lived experience perspective for consumers, people working in mental health drug and alcohol services and/or general community members.
  • Attempt to resolve collective issues at an organisational, systemic, community and/or leadership level. For example, advocating for changes to policies and procedures within a service, or representing the interests of consumers in decision-making processes.

How do I find one? add

  • Consumer Peer Workers are employed by many mental health and drug and alcohol services. They often work alongside other practitioners.
  • If you are currently accessing a service, ask your treating practitioner to put you in contact with a Consumer Peer Worker.
  • For information on MPHN commissioned Drug and Alcohol services click here
  • Call AccessLine on 1800 800 944 (free) to help guide you to the information or treatment you are seeking.

Mental Health Coach

A Mental Health Coach, is specially trained and experienced, to provide mental health support for adults, aged 16 years and over, who are experiencing mild to moderate anxiety, depression or general life stress and who are not accessing existing mental health services. They work with the person to set practical goals that will help get them back on track. The service can be delivered via telephone or in person, and does not require a person to have a mental health care plan or Medicare card to make a referral.

How can they help? add

A Mental Health Coach can help to improve you or your family member’s psychological wellbeing. They offer an initial assessment session which focuses on identified problems and goals and five subsequent individually tailored treatment sessions based on self-guided skill development in a Low Intensity model of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

Key features of the Murrumbidgee New Access Coach Program:

  • Provides direct access to mental health services via simple referral pathways e.g. self-referral.
  • Complements the existing mental health services to reach ‘hard to reach’ population groups, especially men and people in communities where access and uptake of services is lower.
  • Has a high level of measurability with clear measures and reporting systems to assess a person’s progress and effectiveness of the intervention.
  • Refers people requiring more intensive treatment to more appropriate services. Throughout the program, people may also be linked to complementary community networks and engage with other support service providers should they require it i.e. employment, financial or housing assistance.

How do I find one? add

Coaches are located in Wagga, Griffith and Deniliquin and outreach to all communities across the Murrumbidgee region.

The make a referral on behalf of someone else or to refer yourself to the NewAccess program please contact one of the following:

  • Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network Central Intake on 1800 931 603 or Fax 02 6921 9911; or
  • Intereach on 1300 488 226

For more information click here

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Murrumbidgee Mental Health Drug and Alcohol Alliance have worked to develop MapMyRecovery, a free resource providing mental health information specific to the Murrumbidgee region. This includes the local government areas of: Berrigan, Bland, Carrathool, Coolamon, Edward River, Federation, Greater Hume, Griffith, Gundagai, Hay, Hilltops, Junee, Lachlan, Leeton, Lockhart, Murray River, Murrumbidgee, Narrandera, Snowy Valleys, Temora and Wagga Wagga.