Finding the right person to help
What sort of help do I need?
There is a range of support available in Western Australia, including from medical doctors, mental health nurses and allied health professionals.
General practitioners (GP)
Your doctor or general practitioner (GP) is usually the first port of call if you have a mental health problem. GPs can make a diagnosis, prescribe medication and/or refer you to other specialists, health professionals and support groups.
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.
General practitioners and psychiatrists must be registered with the medical board in their state.
Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialise in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of mental illness. Psychiatrists have a medical degree and at least 5 years of postgraduate specialisation in psychiatry. They may also have additional specialist training to work with children and adolescents or older people. Psychiatrists can prescribe medication.
You will need a referral letter from a GP to visit a psychiatrist and to claim the Medicare consultation rebate.
Mental health nurses
Mental health nurses are registered nurses who have specialist qualifications in mental health. They must be registered with the nurses board in their state.
Mental health nurses work with psychiatrists and general practitioners to monitor a person’s mental state, manage medication and improve links to other health professionals and clinical service providers. These services are provided in a range of settings, such as clinics or in a person’s home.
Allied health professionals
Psychologists and clinical psychologists
Psychologists are trained in a wide variety of psychological theories that relate to understanding, managing and changing the behaviour of individuals and groups. This training also involves administering and interpreting psychological tests, and doing research.
Clinical psychologists have undertaken additional studies and specialise in assessing, diagnosing and treating psychological problems and mental illness.
Psychologists must be registered with the Psychologists Registration Board in their state. They use a variety of talking therapies as treatment and cannot prescribe medication.
Some psychological consultations are covered under Medicare if you are referred by a GP. If you have private health cover you may also be eligible to claim a rebate.
Social workers, occupational therapists
Social workers provide assessment, advocacy, liaison and supportive counselling services.
Occupational therapists assess and treat people to regain lost functions, develop their abilities and social skills, and maintain and promote independence in their everyday lives to enhance health and wellbeing.
These health professionals work closely with GPs, psychiatrists and psychologists in delivering mental health services and must be qualified and registered with their respective boards.
Counsellors and psychotherapists
These health professionals listen and offer advice on coping with difficult life circumstances. They may have a diploma, degree or practical experience.
Some consultations may be covered under Medicare if you are referred by a GP. Free or low cost consultations may be available through universities, community centres, charities and religious organisations.