• A fabulous time to be in the worst mental shape of your life, right? (Digital Vision)Source: Digital Vision
'As of March 30, healthcare providers are able to offer telehealth sessions, as well as bulk billing, to all Australians. If I’m honest, it’s the best news I’ve had all week,' writes Chloe Sargeant.
By
Chloe Sargeant

31 Mar 2020 - 9:34 AM  UPDATED 31 Mar 2020 - 1:08 PM

Opinion 

About a month ago, I had a severe nervous breakdown. I’ve lived with mental illness all of my adult life, so it wasn’t my first and I’m sure it won’t be my last, but it was a pretty bad one. I was having regular debilitating panic attacks, and my depression had flared so badly that the idea of getting out of bed was barely an option. The tears rarely stopped, and I didn’t want to leave the house.

My GP and psychologist advised me that I needed to take some time off and focus on my mental health. So I did; I booked an enormous amount of regular appointments with all my doctors and I took three weeks sick leave from work to take some time for myself, to really focus in on what had triggered my relapse.

Then, a global pandemic kicked into high gear. A fabulous time to be in the worst mental shape of your life, right?

Suddenly, many of my appointments were no longer an option

Suddenly, many of my appointments were no longer an option. I also have a chronic illness that makes me more susceptible to getting sick, so as a precaution, I had to self-isolate to lower my risk of getting COVID-19. So, going to doctor’s offices and hospital clinics was far too high a risk for someone like me.

I thought that many of my appointments would be available via phone call or video chat, and was mortified to find out that many GPs and mental health professionals were not approved for telehealth sessions. 

However, I was over the moon to receive a message confirming that the Government has expanded the eligibility criteria for telehealth sessions to include all GPs and specialists, as well as mental health and allied health professionals.

Previously, not all healthcare providers had access to use Medicare item numbers for telehealth sessions, but this change was rolled out earlier in the month. But patients were only eligible for telehealth sessions if they were a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, or part of a particularly vulnerable group, like the elderly or immunocompromised.

But finally, as of March 30, healthcare providers are able to offer telehealth sessions, as well as bulk billing, to all Australians. YES!

This change is going to help so many in this enormously strange and volatile time, and is one of the largest changes our health system has seen in a long time, if ever.

This change is going to help so many in this enormously strange and volatile time, and is one of the largest changes our health system has seen in a long time, if ever. Professor Michael Kidd, Principal Medical Adviser to the Department of Health, told NewsGP that this rollout “has been one of the most significant changes we’ve seen in Australian general practice in my working lifetime of 35 years”.

This change is so important for people like myself, who have regular sessions with various mental health care professionals to manage long-term mental illnesses, but also for the many, many thousands of Australians who are struggling with their mental health while the COVID-19 pandemic progresses.

We’re all having to deal with a lot of change and isolation compared to normal – most of us are not used to staying home so much and having our movements restricted. Not to mention the daily bombardment of horrible and heartbreaking news stories.

These things will absolutely have a toll on our general mental health and wellbeing, so the fact that there aren’t restrictions on being able to see health professionals to manage this is so, so fantastic. If I’m honest, it’s the best news I’ve had all week.

In such a bizarre time of change, isolation and bad news, it’s of utmost importance to look after our mental health.

In such a bizarre time of change, isolation and bad news, it’s of utmost importance to look after our mental health. We need to come together and support one another in our households, local communities, and the world – and we can’t do that if we’re not mentally and physically up to it.

So let’s all stay home and flatten the curve, and give our psych a buzz to book a telehealth session to chat through all the heightened feelings we’re feeling right now. We gotta look after ourselves if we’re gonna look after each other, and get through this together.

Readers seeking support with mental health can contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636. More information is available at Beyond Blue.org.au. Coronavirus specific mental health advice can be found here.

 

Australians must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others and gatherings are limited to two people unless you are with your family or household.

If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus

 

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