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  1. 1

    Dr Ben Mullings

    We really shouldn’t be taking advice from Mark Butler on mental health reforms. His criticisms of Medicare-supported psychological care were debunked years ago:

    The changes to Medicare that he forced through, had the outcome of hurting the most disadvantaged. That is, those who rely on Medicare support and need more than ten visits to recover are left with no option but to turn away from seeking help.

    And I don’t know who made the comment about 50 year old white men, but that is quite a disturbing remark to read. Have a think about the suicide statistics for men in that age bracket for one moment. Do we really need to be pitting one group of people in need of care against another? We can do better.

  2. 2


    I also find the continuous attack on Better Access disturbing. There is this idea that people in North shore suburbs are all well off and so they should not require services. I live in such a suburb, I am recovering from childhood abuse and domestic violence. I use Better Access for psychological services which I need because the type childhood trauma I was subjected to is not something you overcome in a few sessions of therapy. I have come from being a gibbering wreck after escaping DV to someone who is now studying but still needs support of a psychologist to cope with the legacy that trauma has left me, including other health issues and trying to bring up 3 children without transferring that legacy to them.

    My children also use Better Access. My eldest daughter has major anxiety and ADHD she needs the support of a psychologist who has seen her through times when she had constant panic attacks, refused to go to school, was suicidal to now where she is in year 11 and studying for HSC a huge demand for a girl with such anxiety. My son is also ADHD and suffers from anxiety, he also uses Better Access to see a psychologist that has helped him enormously. My youngest daughter is on the spectrum and has ADHD. There are many many families who have children on the spectrum that need psychologists to both help them manage the challenges of raising children on the spectrum and also the child needs help to manage. At my daughter’s school there have been 2 suicides by girls in their teens. There are groups in every year who are anorexic, cutting, and thinking about suicide. I see at my psychologists practice many families with children who need help and are getting it by using Better Access.

    The fact that we have professionals in mental health going against all research and telling the government that those suffering from mental health issues including trauma only need 6 sessions of therapy and 4 in exceptional circumstances is also very disturbing. This is so far from reality and the cut in Better Access which Mark Butler approved left so many now unable to afford the therapy they need. There are many childhood trauma sufferers who were finally getting the help they need from Medicare therapy but the cut has left them struggling with a totally inadequate less than once a month therapy option. When you make these blase statements about “the 50 year old will be fine” or those in well off neighbourhoods were using the services they so desperately need but nevertheless we are going to cut them do you actually think that there are families like mine who you are cutting off services that are life-saving?

    The fact that we are being played like pawns on a chess set by people who say they talk for mental health sufferers but in fact are just trying to pull resources into their own area of mental health at the cost of cutting vital services like Better Access that many so badly need is yet another let down. Better Access was widely accessed by people who needed it and still do. It finally allowed us to access psychological therapy under Medicare so we could afford it but it is maligned continuously by people who are pitting age group against age group, neighbourhood against neighbourhood and cohort against cohort to validate why they must get the money for mental health and other services must be cut.

  3. 3

    Elizabeth Oluwi

    I am also perplexed as to why Better Access Medicare funded therapy has been so maligned in this conference. The reason given that too many people from more affluent areas and cities accessed therapy with Better Access and statements that there are so many psychiatrists in Mosman compared to rural areas surely don’t tally as a reason to cut a very successful service that many people accessed. The failing that there are not enough psychiatrists in rural areas is not a failing of Better Access, it is the same for all Medicare services that there are far less facilities in rural areas.

    In fact Better Access was the first time people could access therapy under Medicare which made it more affordable and saw an explosion of people who needed help getting that help. People like myself who have mental health issues due to childhood trauma and DV but lives in a Sydney suburb where I have the choice of who I see because I use public transport to access a psychologist experienced in helping those suffering from trauma. I am not wealthy, in fact I am a single mother on a pension and I have 3 children to support. Medicare funded therapy allowed me to seek the help I needed and start a long journey of recovery from a suicidal emotional wreck after DV to someone who can function but still needs psychological support to continue that recovery. Childhood trauma is not a condition that requires a few sessions of therapy to recover from in fact it can take many years especially if that trauma is compounded in adulthood which it often is. Better Access offered affordable therapy for many to start recovery.

    A few years after introduction we saw Mark Butler cut Better Access by half to a max of 6 sessions plus 4 sessions under exceptional circumstances under the advice of some mental health representatives who falsely were stating against all the evidence from the research that 10 sessions of therapy is more than enough to help people with mental health issues. This cut hurt many people as 10 sessions is totally inadequate especially for those recovering from trauma like myself. I scrape the money to continue my therapy because I have 3 children who need me to function yet I know of so many who are now left with less than 1 session a month of therapy which is totally inadequate so they give up.

    Better Access helps many because it is a very effective way of allowing people the choice of a therapist. Choice and a strong relationship with a therapist is essential for recovery and again research backs this up. Not only has Better Access helped me it has helped my children who suffer from anxiety. My daughter was suicidal and has recovered to study HSC but she still needs support as her anxiety is extreme. There have been 2 suicides at my daughters school and many are cutting and anorexic and that is the case in most Sydney high schools whether in affluent or not. I know of many parents who use Better Access to help their children and themselves, but they struggle with costs because 10 sessions is not enough. Even Headspace uses Better Access even though funds were taken from Better Access so that Headspace itself cannot offer enough sessions to help young people with serious mental health issues like anorexia and often send them away.

    Why is Better Access so maligned for providing a service that is so successful and helps so many? Instead of maligning it reinstate the sessions that would allow it again to help many more. The problems with rural areas, Indigenous population and poor are not going to go away because you cut Better Access.


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