Mental health is just as important part of your life and care needs as your physical health and fitness. Just as you need clinical treatments when you have serious injuries or illnesses that inhibit your bodily function, you’ll need clinical treatments to address any serious issues in your mental faculties. In addition, just as you need ongoing fitness routines to keep your body healthy for as long as possible, you also need to commit to healthy habits and routines to protect your mental health. Health care is a lifelong commitment and thus services pertinent to both physical and mental health should be well-considered in your private health insurance policy selection.

These services, both for emergency and general treatments, can be included in your hospital and extras covers. Most insurers will allow you to combine them, which is highly recommended.

Assessing your mental health needs

20% of the Australian adults experience some form of mental issue in any given year. The most common illnesses are depression, anxiety and substance abuse/addiction. Studies now reveal that 1 in 7 children and adolescents also experience mental health disorders, with ADHD and anxiety disorders being the most prevalent ones.

Having a mental health plan for you and your family is clearly becoming increasingly important in today’s fast-paced world. Deteriorating mental health can also quickly lead to a negative impact on physical health. The best way to assess the mental health care needs for you and your family is by considering two buckets: 1) Clinical treatments necessary in case of emergency or serious mental health issues and 2) Preventative, day-to-day services to diagnose and address issues quickly.

The first category can be covered by the hospital cover and the second can be covered by the extras cover. Many insurers will offer both and you can sign up for only one of them or get both in a combined plan. Use Compare Health Insurance to find options that give you the best coverage based on your unique needs!

How your private hospital cover can help with mental health care

All tiers (Basic, Bronze, Silver, Gold) of hospital cover products (link to internal) are required to include at least restricted benefits for hospital psychiatric services. Gold tiers are required to offer unlimited psychiatric service benefits. These are inpatient treatments for patients struggling with any mental or behavioural disorders such as schizophrenia, dementia, autism, addiction, eating disorder, depression and more. Treatments could include dedicated counselling, behavioural therapy, clinical procedures such as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), or medications.

In order to improve access to mental health treatments for Australians, the Government introduced a mental health waiver in the private health insurance reforms in April 2018. This waiver allows all policyholders to upgrade without the 2-month waiting period normally applied to hospital psychiatric services, rehabilitation and palliative care. You can only upgrade with the waiver once in your lifetime. The reforms also prohibit insurers from restricting the number of times you can access mental health treatments, counselling sessions and day programs such as electroconvulsive therapy and transcranial magnetic stimulation. You can upgrade and immediately enjoy the full benefits even after you’ve been admitted to hospital as long as you do so within 5 days. This greatly helps anyone who may need to seek emergency treatments due to issues such as substance abuse or psychotic episodes.

How your private extras cover can help with mental health care

Extras cover includes ancillary services not covered by Medicare. These are often alternative and/or outpatient health care services to provide general daily support to help you maintain healthy habits and diagnose issues early on.

Extras cover could include:

  • Dental treatment
  • Optical
  • Chiropractic
  • Remedial massages
  • Acupuncture
  • Psychology
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Health and lifestyle programs (e.g. gym memberships)
  • Non-PBS medicine
  • Physiotherapy
  • Dietetics and weight management
  • Osteopathy
  • Podiatry
  • Hearing aids

Limitations and benefits offered by the extras cover products are mostly at the discretion of individual insurers. Each benefit could come with waiting periods which insurers could waive as part of promotional campaigns to attract customers to join the fund. Psychology, hypnotherapy, health and lifestyle programs are examples of services you may want to be included in your extras policy to cover your mental health needs. Consider the present and future needs of your whole family when selecting your extras cover.

What you can do to better care for your mental health

The more you flex your mental muscles, the better you’ll be able to regulate your emotions and maintain a healthy mental state through the ups and downs in life. The once-prevalent stigma around seeking help for mental health is disappearing fast thanks to global awareness, educational campaigns, and widespread adoption of helpful products such as mobile meditation apps.

Here are some ways you can nurture your mental health.

  • Meditation: You can use apps such as Calm and Headspace to meditate in your home for 10-15 minutes a day. Alternatively, you can join community-led in-person group meditation courses available locally.
  • Exercise: Regular exercise is proven to positively impact in managing depression, anxiety, ADHD, and other mental health disorders. Finding a fitness routine that works best for you can serve you well in improving both your physical and mental strength.
  • Counselling: Speaking to trained psychologists can help you tackle various challenges that you experience throughout life and consistent therapy can help you become stronger in your ability to understand yourself and handle difficult times. There are many different types of counsellors – family therapy, relationship coaching, financial counselling, anger management, etc. You can find the right psychological professional to help you by seeing the Australian Register of Counsellors and Psychotherapists. Alternatively, there are telehealth options where you can talk to therapists online using apps such as BetterHelp.
  • Hypnotherapy: Hypnotherapy can be effective in addressing more deep-seated issues or issues where there are no great medical solutions such as insomnia. It’s an alternative healing method to alter your behaviours or unravel the emotional blockers causing strain on your mental health. Keep in mind that extras covers that offer hypnotherapy may only allow you to claim benefits for hypnotherapy sessions related to quitting smoking. Be sure to consult with medical professionals before signing up for hypnotherapy especially if you’ve never done it before.
  • Community Social Engagement: Healthy and positive social life is critical to long-term mental health. There are many platforms such as Meetup that connect people with similar interests so look for opportunities to make new like-minded friends who will encourage you to pursue your passion or hobbies.