Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health has been a big discussion point, and with many people still isolated from loved ones, more and more people are seeking help. Counsellors are urging the Federal Government to put them on the Medicare Benefits Scheme, citing a shortage of professionals, particularly in regional and rural regions, so that waiting lists for those in need of professional support are reduced. “There are clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health social workers, and other allied health professionals who can help and are on the Medicare Benefits Scheme, but there are 4000 council members with Bachelors and Masters Degrees and professional experience who aren’t,” said Darren Radley, co-owner of Hobart’s The EPICentre.
According to the latest reports, there is a significant concentration of psychologists in urban areas, and there is a shortage of psychologists in rural regions. Moreover, many counsellors reside in rural areas and may provide services that are severely lacking. Bradley also opined that as they work (mainly) with the worried well, their job is to provide early intervention. “Because we are not covered by the Medicare Benefits Scheme, people are waiting weeks, months, or even a year to visit a psychologist, and by that time, their mental health symptoms may have progressed to a significant mental health condition, such as severe depression.
Mr Radley’s wife, Jeanette, who co-owns The EPICentre, said that inclusion in the scheme would mean that counsellors like her and her husband would be regarded as having similar skills to other professions. “Doctors are referring patients to us, but we can’t see them because they don’t have a mental health plan,” she explained. “It’s heartbreaking to turn away clients who don’t have the money. We do visit people for free on occasion, but people shouldn’t have to be put in that situation. Suicide rates have risen with the introduction of Medicare for mental health in 2006.”
The Federal Government believes that improving people’s mental health has been an interest of his for a long period of time. In fact, it has spent billions on improving the mental health of the nation. Many people suffer from mental illness along the (Tasmanian) Coast, and one in every five adults in Tasmania will experience some type of mental disease at some point in their lives. To that end, the government has bolstered the mental health plan with a $2.4 billion boost, bringing our overall mental health spending in 2021/22 to $6.3 billion. The money will go toward prevention and early intervention, as well as suicide prevention, treatment, vulnerable population support, and workforce and governance.
Improvements to coastal men’s sheds in Tasmania, increased headspace support programmes, and improved services for young people and veterans are just a few of the projects that will be supported in the Braddon electorate.