A young woman has shared how she 'felt like a burden' after an 'terrible' encounter with a GP, highlighting a wider problem with the mental health system in Australia.
Victorian woman Rosie Eve told Yahoo News Australia that she needed to book an appointment for a review of her mental health plan, to get a medicare rebate for her psychologist sessions.
"I called up the receptionist to say that I need to renew my mental health care plan and the lady didn’t say anything about what I needed to book in," Ms Eve said.
"She said that they just can’t do it over the phone and that I'd need to come in and book an appointment.
"When I walked in, my doctor said ‘you’re supposed to have a double appointment', which was out of my control as I just wasn't told the right information."
A 'double appointment' is another term for a long appointment, as opposed to the standard 10 — 15 minute one that is automatically given, according to Health Direct.
Ms Eve, who had "already been anxious to even organise this appointment", started crying after being in urgent need of a psychologist appointment.
"My appointment was meant to be the next day, it was already delayed, and I’d already taken a year to go back."
She had previously been going to a free service for her sessions but after the pandemic hit, they were booked out for the next six months.
To top the experience off, she said the doctor expressed no empathy.
"He kind of just looked at me and said 'why has it taken you this long to take care of your mental health?'
"I hadn’t had the money, I have high levels of anxiety so I haven’t actually wanted to do this," she explained to Yahoo News Australia. "It's just come to a point that I need to."
"And it's none of his business."
Ms Eve ended up going to her psychologist appointment the following day, however she had to pay the full price "which was practically double" of what it would have been if she had the rebate.
As a result she had to scramble to get her finances in check.
"It just means now that I have to figure out my rent and my rego and everything," Ms Eve said.
The experience also made her reflect on what other people's reactions might have been and how it could've put someone "on the edge".
"It was just a really horrible experience and I don’t wish it on anyone," Ms Eve said.
"I felt like a burden.
"It would just deter you from getting the help that you need."
Ms Eve also mentioned that the GP used her coming 10 minutes late as another reason to not give her a referral, despite her having to wait 40 minutes to see him anyway.
According to MBS Online, a GP appointment for a Mental Health Treatment Plan can take at least 40 minutes for a GP who has not undertaken mental health skills training and at least 20 for one that has.
When asked if she will go back to organise a medical rebate, she said "she's scared to go back".
"If I do it won’t be with that GP," Ms Eve said.
President of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and adjunct professor, Karen Price, encouraged people to book an appointment with a GP if they have mental health concerns.
"I urge anyone with mental health concerns to book an appointment with your GP, we are here to help," she told Yahoo News Australia.
"It’s important to ask for a long appointment when you book because 20-minutes or more is needed.
"If you don’t book a long appointment, you might be asked to come back for a long appointment, particularly when practices are busy or fully booked, and simply can’t provide an extra long appointment unless it is booked ahead of time."
TikTok users react to GP story
Many felt her frustration and commented words of empathy.
"I’m sorry this happened. I feel ur pain," one person said. "Everyone preaches about getting help and how there are ‘so many services available’ yet ignore how hard they are to access."
"I’ve been hit with the double appointment thing before and it is the most frustrating thing," said another.
"The time he spent belittling you he could have just written the referral," a third person said.
According to adjunct professor, Karen Price, a GP can provide a mental health treatment plan which give people access to up to 10 individual and 10 group allied mental health services each year.
A further 10 sessions are also available for those with a mental health treatment plan until December 31 this year, under the government’s Covid-19 support measures.
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