Australia is currently experiencing a mental health crisis.
As a result of the pandemic, demand for mental health services has spiked, especially in states that experienced long periods of lockdowns. Lifeline, for example, experienced an almost 70% increase in calls during and post this period, and there are now waiting lists of six weeks or more to see a mental health provider. The demand is so high that many psychologists are closing their books to new patients because they simply can’t keep up.
And while this is a nation-wide issue, it’s amplified in rural and regional areas where mental health services are most lacking. Almost a third of Australians live in rural and remote areas, however 87% of psychiatrists and 82% of psychologists are employed in major cities. And sadly, the further from cities you go, the higher the suicide and self-harm rates are.
To make matters worse, the Government is not proposing any timely solution to help address the crisis. However, an immediate solution does exist. The Counsellors Care campaign was born to address this crisis and shed light on the ready-to-go solution, that is registered counsellors.
Counsellors Care aims to educate and encourage more Aussies to seek help from registered counsellors – a highly skilled and under-utilised mental health workforce.
Registered counsellors are an under-utilised part of the mental health workforce, despite being a qualified, appropriate, and cost-effective option for patients with mild to moderate mental health issues. Registered counsellors also have the expertise to support patients with more complex mental health issues.
It is important for Australians to be aware that support delivered by qualified and experienced registered counsellors is available, this week, tomorrow, today - without the excruciating wait times and high gap fees that are too common with other mental health providers.
Counsellors Care calls for full utilisation of registered counsellors to achieve better client outcomes from mental health services and reduce financial strain on the health system.
Our answer to the workforce shortages threating Australia’s mental health system is clear - over 9,500 highly skilled and experienced registered counsellors can be better utilised, along with over 6,000 new and future graduates who will be ready to enter the workforce in the next few years.
As expert communicators and relational practitioners, counsellors are strong compliments to multidisciplinary teams and should be utilised broadly throughout the workforce.
Counsellors Care proposes all Australians should have access to Medicare funded services delivered by registered counsellors.
Allied health professionals providing Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) items for Focussed Psychological Strategies spend approximately 60% of their time delivering counselling and approximately 30% of their time delivering mental health interventions.
Considering these alarming figures, to meet the urgent and immediate need, we propose the Government increase access to Medicare-funded mental health services by including registered counsellors to the MBS, through the Better Access Initiative (BAI).
Including counsellors as MBS-funded mental health providers will improve access to and targeting of services provided under BAI – helping to address the mental health crisis. It would also have a positive impact on the per capita service cost for Government and on out-of-pocket costs for consumers accessing services under the BAI.
Help us drive change with a ready-to-go solution, that is better utilisation of registered counsellors.
The Australian Counselling Association (ACA) is Australia's leading single registration body for Counsellors and Psychotherapists, with over 9,500 members. The ACA is a self-regulating industry peak body and serves a crucial role in advocating and advancing the profession of Counselling and Psychotherapy.
It is a pivotal time for counsellors and psychotherapists - Australia’s mental health crisis urgently needs as many qualified mental health workers as possible.
- Philip Armstrong, CEO ACA
The ACA has a solid international reputation, including formal affiliations with peak bodies in the Philippines, Hong Kong, Ireland, and Papua New Guinea, as well as engagement with peak bodies in Canada, New Zealand, UK, USA, and Malaysia. ACA is a founding member of the Asia Pacific Rim Confederation of Counsellors.
The ACA is recognised as Australia’s only Observer Member of the World Health Organisation’s Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Reference Group for Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) in Emergency Settings. The ACA has given evidence to the House Select Committee on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention to argue for inclusion into the BAI and MBS, with support from UNICEF.