A Round-Up Of Services Students Can Access For Their Mental Health
Remember, it is always much stronger to ask for help than ‘toughing it out’ yourself.
According to data released from the Medibank Better Health Index, 1.7 million young Aussies are living with one or more mental health conditions.
Maybe it’s the stress of moving away from home, the struggles of maintaining a healthy work-study-life balance or some other personal circumstances. Whatever it is, you or someone you know needs some help. Now what?
Unlike when you break a leg and know exactly where to go, when it comes to mental health, it’s often much more difficult to know what the next step is.
That’s why we’ve collated some of the most cost effective and accessible methods for students to get the help they need.
#1 University Counselling
One of the cheapest and easiest ways to access mental health support while you’re a student is through university counselling. You can make an appointment in person or over the phone and the counsellors available are all highly qualified professionals with extensive experience dealing with students.
The only downside of this service is that it’s pretty popular and there might be a bit of a wait. Wait times at the University of Melbourne are usually between 2-3 weeks depending on the time of year.
However, drop-in appointments are also available if you need to see a counsellor urgently. In that case, it’s still best to phone in advance to let them know when you want to come in and check if you can be accommodated.
The sessions are free for students and confidential. It’s also based on campus, making it a very accessible first point of contact.
Queensland University of Technology is a notable example of a university with really well-established counselling service. Not only does it have drop in and phone services on top of regular sessions, it also has a separate international student portal to provide more targeted service for those dealing with the unique struggles of relocation.
Helplines are really useful if you’re not ready for a face-to-face session, or if you need to talk to someone urgently outside of working hours.
Another great benefit is that the service is anonymous. Calls can last for a few minutes up to an hour. You can call once or every second day and if required, you’ll be recommended other options to pursue at your own discretion.
There are also lines in Australia that are aimed at specific communities – men, the LGBTI+ community, people with eating disorders, etc – and can offer more targeted support. You can find a list of them here.
Numbers you can call:
Kids helpline: 1800 55 1800 (for young people aged 5 – 25)
Headspace: 180 55 1800 (for young people aged 12 – 25)
Lifeline Australia: 13 11 14 (crisis counselling and suicide prevention service)
#3 A General Practitioner
A GP can be a great starting point to direct you to where you can get more specialised medical help.
Not to mention, speaking to a GP means you can get set up on a mental health care plan, entitling you to up to 10 free counselling sessions with a psychologist or a community-based centre. This only takes a few minutes to obtain by answering some brief and straightforward questions.
#4 Community Services
As we’ve touched on earlier, one of the services your GP might refer you to is a community-based centre like Headspace. You can also come directly to them.
Headspace is really comprehensive in its work, offering online, phone and IRL counselling. Chat and email services are incredibly fast and accessible but not the best way to have a very comprehensive and personal session. This makes them, along with the phone service, one of the best ways to sort out small issues and bring bigger issues to a centre.
These centres might be a bit harder to get to depending on where you live. The timeliness of appointments might also be a problem due to such high demands; wait time is approximately 3-4 weeks, based on my own experience.
On the other hand, like university counselling, you’ll receive high quality and confidential help from qualified counsellors but there is a far lower chance of bumping into someone you know when you check in for a session, if that is something you are worried about.
To receive free service, you need to get the mental health care plan at a GP but most Headspace clinics will have a GP on site and can help you get it on the same day as your first session.
At the end of the day, if you’re not quite comfortable reaching out in any of the ways listed above, that’s totally fine. It’s all about baby steps and at least now you know what’s available to you. In the meantime, you can try opening up to a trusted friend or family member.
Remember, it is always much stronger to ask for help than ‘toughing it out’ yourself. Good luck!
If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental illness, you can find help by seeking advice from a counsellor or calling Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Maggy is a freelance content creator based in Melbourne, Australia. She runs her own blog here and most of her other handles are @mxqqy.