Who can assist
A range of individuals and organisations provide support for people experiencing depression and/or anxiety conditions. While some people may just need to get help from one particular type of health professional, other people may benefit from seeing various people for different aspects of their treatment.
Everyone’s different. Treatment needs to be tailored to your condition, circumstances, needs and preferences. Most people with anxiety or depression benefit from one or a combination of the following:
- lifestyle changes and social support
- psychological or ‘talking’ therapies
- medical therapies
Health professionals – what’s the difference?
Different health professionals (such as GPs, psychologists and psychiatrists) offer different types of services and treatments for depression and anxiety. Below is a guide to the range of practitioners available and what kind of treatment they provide.
General Practitioners (GPs)
GPs are the best starting point for someone seeking professional help. A good GP can:
- make a diagnosis
- check for any physical health problem or medication that may be contributing to the depression or anxiety, or may affect your treatment
- provide information and discuss available treatments, taking your preferences into account
- work with you to draw up a Mental Health Treatment Plan.
- provide support, brief counselling or, in some cases, more specialised talking therapy
- prescribe medication
- refer you to a mental health specialist such as a psychologist or psychiatrist
- provide information and support to family members, if you agree
- schedule regular appointments to check how you are going.
Before consulting a GP about depression or anxiety, it's important to ask the receptionist to book a longer or double appointment, so there's plenty of time to discuss the situation without feeling rushed. If you aren't able to make a longer appointment, it's a good idea to raise the issue of depression or anxiety early in the consultation so there is plenty of time to discuss it.
Ideally, you should consult your regular GP or another GP in the same clinic, as medical information is shared within a practice. While some GPs may be more confident at dealing with depression and anxiety than others, the majority of GPs will be able to assist or at least refer you to someone who can, so they are the best place to start.
Psychiatrists are doctors who have undergone further training to specialise in the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions. They can make medical and psychiatric assessments, conduct medical tests, provide therapy, and also prescribe medication. Psychiatrists often use psychological treatments such as cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy (IPT) and/or medication. If the depression or anxiety is severe and hospital admission is required, a psychiatrist will be in charge of the person's treatment.
You'll need a referral from a GP to see a psychiatrist.
A GP may suggest you see a psychiatrist if:
- your experience of depression or anxiety is more severe
- your experience of depression or anxiety is associated with a high risk of self-harm or suicide
- your experience of depression or anxiety lasts for a long time, or continues to come back
- your condition has failed to respond to treatment
- the GP would like specialist advice about the most appropriate treatment
- the GP thinks that he or she doesn't have the appropriate skills required to treat you effectively.
Psychologists are health professionals who can work in a range of areas such as clinical, neuropsychology, health, community, forensic, organisational, and sports and exercise psychology.
There are many different types of psychologists such as clinical, educational, counselling and developmental psychologists. You don't need a referral from a GP or psychiatrist to see a psychologist. If you have private health insurance and extras cover, you may be able to claim part of a psychologist's fee. Contact your health fund to check.
Mental Health Nurses
Mental health nurses are nurses who have undertaken further training to care for people with mental health conditions. While most mental health nurses work in specialist mental health services, some work with private psychiatrists and GPs. Mental health nurses can provide you with information about mental health conditions and support your treatment and recovery, including reviewing the state of your mental health and monitoring your medication or other treatment recommended by your GP or psychiatrist. Some mental health nurses have training in providing psychological therapies. For a referral to a mental health nurse who works in a general practice or with a psychiatrist, ask your GP or psychiatrist.
Occupational therapist in mental health
Occupational therapists in mental health help people who have difficulty functioning because of a mental health condition (such as anxiety or depression) to participate in normal, everyday activities. Some occupational therapists are registered with Medicare to provide focused psychological strategies for people with depression or anxiety. You don't need a referral from a GP to see an occupational therapist in mental health.
'Counsellor' is a generic term used to describe various professionals who offer some type of talking therapy. A counsellor may be a psychologist, nurse, social worker, occupational therapist, or they may have a specific counselling qualification such as a Bachelor or Master of Counselling degree. Counsellors can work in a variety of settings, including private practices, community health centres, schools and universities and youth services.
A counsellor can talk through different problems you may be experiencing and look for possible solutions. However, it is important to note that not all counsellors have specific training in treating mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.
While there are many qualified counsellors who work across different settings, unfortunately, anyone can call themselves a 'counsellor', even if they don't have training or experience. For this reason, it's important to ask for information about the counsellor's qualifications and whether they are registered with a professional society.
If you are experiencing severe depression or anxiety or are at risk of harming yourself or others, you might need to spend time in hospital for intensive treatment and monitoring. It might also be necessary to be treated in hospital if you have medical problems which may complicate your treatment.
Some people experiencing mild to moderate anxiety or depression may prefer to use online forms of therapy. A range of different programs are available, most of which are backed up by phone, email, text or web chat support from a mental health specialist. Online therapies can be particularly helpful for people living in rural and remote communities, who may find it difficult to access the health professionals listed above. Remember, we’re all different and online therapies may not be suitable for everyone. Speakoutu provides free professional e therapy via chat and email to young people in Uganda.
What will it cost?
The cost of getting treatment for anxiety, depression or a related condition from a health professional varies. However,you can use your medical insurance to see a mental health professional, you can also get part or all of the consultation fee subsidised when you see certain mental health professionals for treatment of anxiety, depression or any other mental health condition.
Speakoutu provides free professional e therapy via chat and email to young people in Uganda