Updated: Jan 28
Bushfires have been burning across Australia for several months, particularly during the summer period in Victoria and New South Wales. Residents and holidaymakers have been forced to leave or take refuge. Property has been destroyed and lives lost. Thousands of people have been impacted by the bushfires. Distress, anxiety and trauma can emerge over months and years.
The Government has responded to calls to increase and expand the psychological supports available. Everyone impacted by the bushfires, not just those residing in affected communities, can now access additional psychological support. This is welcome news.
Here are the details:
Children, families, individuals and emergency services workers who have been impacted by the bushfires in the 2019-2020 period are able to access 10 counselling sessions rebated by Medicare. A referral from a GP is not needed. These 10 psychologist sessions are in addition to the usual entitlements under the Medicare Better Access to Mental Health scheme. Sessions can occur from now until December 2021.
What does this mean for me?
If you have been affected by the recent bushfires, you can make an appointment to see a psychologist now, without a referral from your doctor. This means that you could attend up to 20 psychologist sessions this year rebated by Medicare - 10 sessions without a referral (Bushfire Recovery Initiative) and 10 more sessions with a GP referral and Mental Health Care Plan (Better Access to Mental Health scheme). You may then be eligible for additional sessions in 2021.
Reach out if you need support.
Some signs of reduced wellbeing and mental health concerns include mood swings, tearfulness, difficulty sleeping, increased anxiety, nightmares, loss of appetite, avoidance of reminders of the bushfires, flashbacks, avoiding socialising and not enjoying your usual activities.
Early intervention is best.
Check out my earlier blog - Supporting Children After a Traumatic Experience, for information and practical suggestions for supporting children in the aftermath of the bushfires.
If you believe that your children, a family member, friend or colleague would benefit from talking with a psychologist, encourage them to pick up the phone and make an appointment.
Don’t wait until things get worse.
Call the office - (03) 9548 1666.
Or refer to the ‘Find a Psychologist’ website for a psychologist close to your home. Your GP might also be able to recommend a psychologist.
Your mental health is important!