How your GP can help
Your doctor (GP) is often a good place to start for most mental health issues, as they can make a diagnosis, provide treatment or refer you to other mental health services if needed.
Physical and mental health are interconnected and can affect each other. For example good mental health is conducive to good physical health and vice versa. 
Visiting your local GP to discuss a mental health issue can be beneficial if you feel comfortable doing so, especially if you have already formed a trusted relationship with your GP. There are many benefits of visiting a GP if you are experiencing a mental health issue as they are able to provide care for both your physical and mental health issues. Some prescribed medications can have a negative effect on your mental health as can some physical health issues and if you have a GP you visit regularly they will be aware of what medications you are taking and your medical history.
Attending a GP practice on a regular basis is important in maintaining and protecting your physical and mental health. The more comfortable you are with your GP, the easier it will be to talk with them about your health issues and needs. It will also allow your GP to build a detailed medical history for you.
Feeling uncomfortable about seeing a GP for a mental health issue?
People with mental health issues may believe they will be stigmatised if they receive formal treatment for a mental health issue. However, many people seek their GP’s help when experiencing a mental health issue. According to the BEACH survey, around 12.4% of all GP appointments were mental health-related in 2015–16, an increase from 10.8% in 2007/08. The BEACH survey also found that depression, anxiety and sleep disturbance were the three most frequent mental healthhealth issues GP’s managed in 2015/16, accounting for 60.8% of all mental health issues and 5.1% of all physical health issues they managed.
Finding the right GP for you
For a variety of reasons some people do not feel comfortable visiting their local GP to discuss a mental health issue. If you would prefer to see a different GP to your usual doctor or do not currently have a regular GP, it is worth spending a bit of time looking for a GP who will meet your needs.
GPs need to be skilled in providing mental health care, and they vary in their ability, training and interest to do so. Some GPs may be more confident in dealing with mental health issues than others. Looking online is a good first step in finding the right GP for you as many GP practices have a website with doctor profiles describing their specific interests and skills.
Alternatively, you can ring the practice’s reception and ask if any of the GPs have a specific interest in mental health issues. They should be able to provide advice on which GPs will be most helpful in assisting with your concerns.
Before making a decision you may want to call the practice to ask:
- When is the practice open?
- Is the practice easy to get to? Is it close to public transport, or is there reasonable car parking nearby?
- How long can it take to see a doctor?
- What fees are payable? Does the practice bulk bill?
- Are both male and female doctors available? You may prefer to see a male or female GP for certain health issues.
- Do any of the doctors speak languages other than English?
For more information on how to find a GP go to: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/personal-best/pillar/supporting-yourself/finding-a-gp-that-can-help-with-mental-health-issues?fbclid=IwAR2ZuD1DPYfAFtxLYht8FA-dKdEIVPlIgqFiHc-cKnrq_z2WBdc1suLmR44
Booking your first appointment
When you book your first visit, please request a 30 minute appointment, this will mean you have extra time to talk with your GP about what is happening for you and the next steps to finding some support without been rushed.
Preparing for your GP appointment
Being prepared for your GP visit can assist your GP in getting all the information they need but also help you to discuss all your concerns and find out everything you want to know. Before you go to your appointment:
- Think about the reasons you are visiting the GP and make a list of the key points you would like to discuss and any questions you would like to ask.
- Find out what you can about your family’s medical history as this can help your GP to identify the health issue you are experiencing.
- If you have not seen this particular GP before take with any medications you are currently using/ taking?.
During your appointment
Start by describing:
- What you are experiencing, be honest with your doctor about your concerns they are there to help, not to judge you.
- If there is anything you think might have triggered what is happening.
- How long it has been going on for.
- How it is affecting your everyday life,
- Tell them about any treatment you are having or medications you are taking.
Your GP will talk and work with you to determine what support is best for you. This could include:
- Providing access to self-help resources, support groups, online support and referrals to community services.
- Setting up a Mental Health Care Plan which allows you to claim a Medicare rebate for up to six visits to a clinical psychologist, mental health or allied mental health professional.
- Depending on your needs, your GP can also refer you for an additional four sessions if required
“Health professionals are free to determine their own fees for the services they This means that if the cost of the appointment is more than the Medicare rebate you will have to pay the gap between the rebate and what they charge for their services. If you are unable to pay this gap, don’t give up, there are GP’s who can bulk-bill the cost of your appointment.
How to access a bulk billing GP?
Anyone who is registered with Medicare and has a Medicare card can access a bulk-billing GP. If you are not enrolled with Medicare, you can complete an enrolment form online or visit your nearest Medicare office.
What happens when a GP bulk bills?
Any GP can refer you to the appropriate services. However, with a bulk billing GP the bill for your appointment is sent directly to Medicare and there will be no out if pocket payment for you. Not all GPs bulk bill – please ask when you book your GP appointment.
Where to find your nearest bulk billing GP
To find a GP that bulk bills, visit:
Services your GP may refer you to in WA
There are many low cost services available your GP can refer you to, if needed. To check if you are eligible for any of the services listed below, please speak to your GP.
PORTS (Practitioner Online Referral Treatment Services)
Free telephone and online psychological assessment for people aged 16+ experiencing anxiety, depression or substance use issues. Appropriate treatment will be offered if required.
For more information go to: https://ports.org.au/for-patients
Free care management for people aged 18+ experiencing significant and complex mental health issues who require a consistent point of contact and connection to other support services.
For more information go to: https://www.wapha.org.au/mh-connext/
Child and Adolescent Brief Intervention Service (CABIS):
Free short-term, face- to-face counselling services for children and adolescents (4-15 years) with mild to moderate mental health concerns.
Provides free psychological treatment for people living in country areas experiencing mild to moderate mental health conditions and people with severe and complex needs.
Once your GP has referred you to the Mental Health Portal you will receive a phone call from a mental health professional who will organise an assessment to determine what services are needed.
Britt H, Miller GC, Henderson J, Bayram C, Harrison C, Valenti L, Wong C, Gordon J,Pollack AJ, Pan Y, Charles J. 2016. General practice activity in Australia 2015–16. General practice series no. 40. Sydney: Sydney University Press.