Medicare funding for psychological treatment has been praised for helping promote mental health to a similar standing as physical health.
Medicare funding for psychological treatment has made Australia a world leader in helping people with conditions like anxiety, depression and substance use, according to a study.
Thanks to the funding, the treatment rate for those with mental health issues has risen faster than in any other country, from 37 per cent in 2006/7 to 46 per cent 2009/10.
This is directly attributable to the Better Access initiative launched by the federal government in 2006, write the authors led by Professor Harvey Whiteford of the University of Queensland.
“No other country of which we are aware has demonstrated such an increase within three years,” they write in the Australian Health Review.
Funding for psychological treatment had helped promote mental health to a similar standing as physical health, said Professor Lyn Littlefield, executive director of the Australian Psychological Society.
But 54 per cent of people with mental disorders were still not being treated, she said.
At present, Medicare subsidises up to 10 psychology sessions a year, down from 18 sessions when the initiative was introduced.
“We have already begun to see an erosion of the effectiveness of Better Access,” said Prof Littlefield.
She urged the federal government not to impose further cuts.
The report was “wonderful news”, said Kate Carnell, CEO of the mental health charity beyondblue.
“Taking the first step to get support is often difficult, but most people make a full recovery after doing so.”
She said beyondblue data showed that an increased awareness about symptoms played an important part in encouraging people to seek help.
She said her organisation was running a national anxiety awareness campaign.
“We have also launched Man Therapy, a first of its kind campaign that has attracted over 300,000 unique visitors to its website.
“The more we work to get these messages into the community, the more we believe that treatment rates will continue to grow.”