Taking Care of Yourself and Your Family

©YouCanHelp Publishing 2016

For people experiencing difficulties with their mental health, accessing an appropriate support service can be quite frustrating. And despite many people seeking out support when their difficulties are mild or of low intensity, they discover that without a diagnosis of mental disorder, they are ineligible to receive a subsidised service. In many regional centres, services have long waiting lists, and private services (requiring a gap payment) are also heavily booked.

So, there are two issues here, one is that responsible people who decide to try and ‘nip problems in the bud’ early before they progress to crisis point, must wait until their condition worsens to be eligible for a service. Then, when they do become eligible, depending on geography, they may have to wait months to obtain a service.

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that many people view the mental health system in Australia as contradictory, and broken. Contradictory, because mental health promotion campaigns urge early health seeking when often there doesn’t appear to be help available, and broken, because the system favours responding to more serious problems and appears to ignore the value of early intervention, despite the burgeoning cost of overwhelmed mental health services.

Though there have been some shifts in rhetoric apparent in Commonwealth policy in this regard, whether promotion, prevention, and early intervention for mental health are taken seriously in terms of the focus of funding remains to be seen. Certainly, there is some talk of ‘low intensity’ services being funded and developed.

Ironically, there already exists an additional and underutilised professional workforce of people that could provide early intervention services if they were recognised. Counsellors and Psychotherapists are a good option for people needing support with their mental health. Many counsellors and psychotherapists have considerable experience and post-graduate university qualifications, and can offer an excellent alternative to and extension of current services. However, because they are relative latecomers to the mental health sphere, political turf-warfare has them excluded. They are not eligible for government provider numbers as are other practitioners like psychologists and social workers, and so are forced onto the margins of human service activity by the way government subsidies are administered.

Yet another irony, is that a significant percentage of counsellors and psychotherapist, have more specialised training and experience than many practitioners who have been granted provider numbers. As their member organisations tighten requirements of training and credentialing, counsellors and psychotherapists are becoming not only an available alternative to other service providers, they are philosophically more attuned to the problems of pathologising clients through illness labelling, and have grown up in a culture where Mental Health Treatment Plans are largely absent and objectionable.

Counsellors and psychotherapists in Australia are available in private practice on a full fee for service basis, but their often-underutilised services are testament to a culture long cultivated in Australia, of health and mental health services being offered without expectation of payment (due to subsidisation by government). Though this is slowly changing due to shrinking expenditure on mental health services relative to demand, it may be a long time yet before, as a society, we adopt any kind of user pay acceptance.

Amongst government initiatives (and those of NGOs funded by government) that do aim to some degree to address low intensity mental health difficulties, are online e-mental health resources. Whilst these have been found to have some effectiveness, they still require computer access and literacy, and the patience and attention (which often people needing them don’t have) to work through their processes. Nonetheless, it is important to provide people with resources they can use themselves to take care of and address any difficulties of their mental health

Much of what might be contained in a series of therapy sessions can easily be made available to individuals who might otherwise seek but not gain access to face to face support – at least in terms of the psycho-education component.

The following resource "Taking Care of Yourself and Your Family" is ideal for this purpose, is priced for bulk purchase and widespread mental health promotion in communities, and has a solid track record. Click here to take a look.