Health Insurance for Mental Health Treatment

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Updated 26/06/2024
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Updated 26/06/2024

Our aim is to help you make better informed decisions. That’s why iSelect’s content is produced in accordance with our fact-checking and editorial guidelines.

Edited by

Ellie Garran

Find out more about how we make money.

View our Privacy Policy.

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What are mental health services? 

When you’re in good mental health, you can manage your daily stresses, work productively, be resilient, connect and relate with people, and generally feel happy about life. Poor mental health, on the other hand, can change how you think, feel and act, affecting people around you and the choices you make. 

Mental health services, therefore, help you assess, treat and manage any mental health conditions you may be dealing with. 

There are lots of different mental health services, including face-to-face, online and telephone options. They also cater to different levels of need and types of conditions. For instance, if you are having a mental health emergency — where you or others are in danger — you can call 000, present at your local emergency department, or use your state or territory’s telephone triage service. 

Conversely, if you just aren’t feeling your usual self, you may like to see your GP for an initial assessment. You could also look at local mental health services or visit a mental health organisation’s website, like Mental Health Online, to work through a self-paced online treatment program. 

What mental health services are there? 

Emergency services

  • 000 and ambulances 
  • Emergency departments
  • Phone triage services 

Inpatient and hospital services

  • Psychiatric units
  • Psychiatric hospitals 

Specialists and community mental health services

  • Tailored support for different conditions and groups
  • Can be a single professional or multiple 

Mental health care professionals

  • GPs 
  • Psychiatrists 
  • Psychologists 
  • Social workers 
  • Occupational therapists
  • Other allied health professionals 

Online and phone mental health services

  • Lifeline 
  • Kids Helpline 
  • ReachOut
  • Other non-government organisations 

Source: Healthdirect – Australian mental health services  

What do different mental health services do? 


GP (your regular doctor)

Psychologist

Psychiatrist

Occupational therapist

Mental health nurse

Social worker

Peer worker

Counsellor
  • Offers initial assessments and advice
  • Provides treatment options, like some medications or referrals to other mental health care professionals   
  • Offers assessments and diagnoses
  • Provides treatment options, like cognitive behaviour therapy and psychoanalysis
  • Specially trained to help with mental illnesses   
  • Offers assessments and diagnoses
  • Provides management and treatment plans, including certain medications, procedures and admission to hospital
  • Can be helpful for complex, severe, sudden and difficult to diagnose conditions   
  • Identifies barriers your mental health condition creates
  • Helps you find coping strategies and build confidence
  • Can be useful if your condition affects your daily functionality   
  • Works with other mental health care professionals
  • Offers assessments
  • Administers medications
  • Helps with mental health programs and activities   
  • Helps you work through mental health challenges, like relationships or living situations
  • Can be helpful for short-term counselling or referring you to further support   
  • Has lived experience, which they draw on to help you
  • Can be helpful to show you that you’re not alone   
  • Helps you work through wellbeing issues, like relationships
  • Provides treatment options, like mindfulness and cognitive behaviour therapy
  • Encourages your problem-solving skills   

Sources: Better Health Channel – Who’s who in mental health services, Head to Health – Types of health professionals, Healthdirect – Australian mental health services 

Helpful tip:

If you’re having trouble understanding the difference between a psychologist or psychiatrist, you can use the log–tree trick. If you fell off a log, you probably wouldn’t need medicine or to go to hospital. If you fell out of a tree, you’d probably need to see a doctor. So a psychologist can’t prescribe medicine, but a psychiatreeist could. It’s silly but can help you remember the difference!

Madeline Pettet

Digital Writer (Health)

Does Medicare cover mental health services? 

Since Medicare covers the public hospital system, you can receive psychiatric services there and not need to worry about an out-of-pocket cost. However, psychiatric hospital services are usually reserved for more extreme cases, so you may never need to become an inpatient. 

For other mental health services, like visiting your GP or a psychiatrist, you might be bulk billed. That means you could have it all covered by Medicare or need to pay some out-of-pocket costs. 

As part of the Better Access initiative, you can also claim up to 10 individual sessions and 10 group sessions with eligible psychologists, occupational therapists and social workers annually. You’ll just need a mental health treatment plan from your GP, a referral and a diagnosed mental illness. Like bulk-billed services, Medicare might cover all of the costs of these appointments or just some. 

Importantly, these rebates now apply to telehealth too— it feels strange to be thankful for COVID-19 for something, but this is one reason, at least. 

Does Private Health Insurance cover mental health services? 

Your Private Health Insurance might cover mental health services, but it depends on the policy. This includes whether your cover is limited or restricted in some way. 

For instance, a Hospital Policy can cover the accommodation side of things and then some of your medical fees. All Hospital Insurance needs to have some level of hospital psychiatric cover, but it’s allowed to be restricted unless you choose a Gold Policy. Regardless of the type of hospital policy you pick, though, you may also need to pay an excess or co-payments. 

Your Extras Cover could include mental health services like psychologists, social workers, occupational therapists, counsellors and even hypnotherapy. The catch is you’ll likely need to see a preferred provider to get back any money. Plus, the waiting periods, benefits and limits aren’t set in stone, so you’ll likely spot some differences between policies and funds. 

Speaking of waiting periods, these are a little different to the norm when it comes to Hospital Cover. In the case of psychiatric services and rehab, there’s only a two-month waiting period, rather than the standard 12 months, even if you have a pre-existing condition.  

Notably, though, if you’re upgrading your policy and moving from restricted psychiatric cover to full, unrestricted cover, you also have the option to skip serving your new waiting period. The drawback is you can only do this once in your life. 

Where can I find mental health support? 

If it’s an emergency, you can call 000 for help. Each state and territory also has a crisis helpline, many of which are open 24/7. 

Crisis helplines
ACTACT Crisis Assessment and Treatment Team
1800 629 354 
NSWMental Health Line
1800 011 511 
NTMental Health Line
1800 682 288 
QLD1300 MH CALL
1300 64 22 55 
SAMental Health Triage Service
13 14 65 
TasAccess Mental Health
1800 332 388 
VicVisit the Victorian Government’s database of mental health services to find the crisis number for your area
WAMental Health Emergency Response Line
Metro: 1300 555 788
Peel: 1800 676 822
Rural and regional: 1800 552 002
Non-government helplines 
Beyond Blue If you’re anxious or depressed
1300 22 4636
Kids Helpline If you’re aged between five and 25
1800 55 1800
Lifeline If you’re emotionally distressed
13 11 14
MensLine If you identify as a man
1300 78 99 78
SANE If you’re living with a mental health condition
1800 187 263

For non-crisis mental health support, you can use Head to Health to find local mental health services. You can also talk to your GP for advice, treatment or a referral, like to a psychologist or psychiatrist. 

Alternatively, if you’d prefer to get help online, there are lots of digital resources available from non-government organisations, including treatment programs. There are also many dedicated numbers to call. Often these are specialised to suit different groups of people, like kids or men. 

Finally, you can always talk to someone you trust, like a friend or family member. Sometimes letting your emotions out or voicing your worries can make a big difference to how you feel. 

Where can I find and compare Private Health Insurance? 

There’s no shame in needing help with your mental health — you wouldn’t ignore a broken leg and try to get on with your day, would you? In Australia, Medicare gives you access to a variety of mental health services, but Private Health Insurance could help you skip public hospital waiting times, have more options and control over your care, or claim for sessions Medicare doesn’t cover.  

iSelect makes it easy to compare a wide range of Health Insurance Policies from different insurers online. Or you can call one of our Health Insurance comparison experts on 1800 784 772. Either way, we’re here to help you save time and effort, so you can get back to feeling like your best self sooner. 

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