Navigating mental health services
If you need to access mental health information, services or support, it’s helpful to know what’s out there so you can make an informed choice. There are many types of support, and they can be accessed in different ways.
Choosing effective care for you
The mental health services you choose will depend on your situation and how you’re feeling. Many people will also use a blend of these options to support their needs.
If you need immediate support:
- Call 000 (triple zero) or go to your local emergency department if you, or someone else, is in immediate danger.
- You can also contact a crisis support phone line.
If you want to manage your own mental health:
- You may try reading and talking to others online to get advice. Or you may decide to work through a self-paced online treatment program.
If you need more active support, but can’t or prefer not to access a service in person:
- You might choose to undertake an online treatment program with support from a coach or clinician via text, email, webchat.
- You might choose to engage with a health professional via phone or video conference.
If you want to visit a professional, or don’t know what kind of support or treatment you need:
- You may want to book in to see a GP to discuss what is happening. The GP may suggest you need a mental health assessment and provide a referral. There are typically telehealth or face-to-face options for getting the assessment, depending on the health service.
- You can also call Head to Health on 1800 595 212 for help accessing the local mental health services and supports that are right for you.
Whatever your situation, it’s important to reach out for help. The service you access first can help you work out your options, so you can choose the best pathway for where you’re at. You can find out more about each type of service below.
You will also need to consider the fees you may need to pay to access health professionals or health services. Many can be accessed for free or at a low cost, and it is helpful to know your options.
Types of digital treatment, services and resources
There are a wide range of online services, programs, websites, chat groups and apps available for you to use, each with its own purpose.
Online treatment programs can help you work through a range of mental health conditions and disorders like depression and anxiety—some at your own pace, and some with support from a clinician or coach.
Other online resources and tools are focused on providing you information you can trust, helping you develop life and coping skills, or connecting you with other people to share your experience and benefit from theirs.
You can use digital services and resources by yourself, or as part of a health professional’s treatment plan to support your progress between consultations.
There are a range of online treatment services you can access via a website or app, most of which are free or low cost. You can complete these programs by yourself, or access programs that include support from a coach or therapist associated with the program, or with the support of your own GP or mental health practitioner such as your psychologist.
These programs and services have research evidence showing they can be as effective as face-to-face treatment, especially when they include support from a therapist or mental health practitioner. You can find programs targeting a range of issues, including:
These may be:
- information, factsheets, and self-help guides on social, emotional, and mental health and wellbeing topics
- online quizzes and assessments to check how you’re going
- mental wellbeing apps for your computer or mobile.
These can be helpful for finding more information and starting to take action to improve your wellbeing. Many are also used or recommended by health professionals, along with the care they are providing to you.
Dedicated mental health forums and lived experience groups can be a good way to meet and chat with people who are happy to share their own mental health and wellbeing experiences. These forums and groups can help you feel less alone, and get ideas from others about things they have found helpful.
Calling a helpline, chatting online, or arranging a phone call with a health professional can be valuable when you need more personalised support. If you’re nervous about talking to someone on the phone or through video, webchat might be a more comfortable first step for you. Lifeline, Kids Helpline, headspace, Beyond Blue and ReachOut are trusted services that offer support via telephone, text and webchat.
Types of face-to-face services
Many different types of health professional may be involved in your treatment. This can range from your first appointment with a GP to working with a specialist, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist. It’s valuable to know what roles they all play, and how to access them.
The types of service you access will differ depending on the provider and the area they operate in.
Many health professionals offer both:
- in-person services, where you attend their consulting rooms
- telehealth services, where you access via telephone or video conference.
Getting extra support
It’s not uncommon to need a bit of extra help when finding your way through the health system. A key thing to remember is that you don't have to do it alone.
Speak to your health providers whenever you need help understanding your options and they can help you take it step by step. They are there to answer all your questions, so be sure to get all the information you need.
Having a friend, family member, or someone you trust attend appointments can also help to make sense of all the information.
If you feel uncomfortable with the treatment you are receiving, or your goals are not being met, you can ask your provider about getting an advocate. An advocate’s role is to ensure you have the information you need to make decisions for yourself. They can also help you to understand your rights and represent you as part of health services. Their job is to make sure your opinions and wishes are heard by the professional.