Mental health services - supporting Indigenous health

How health professionals should manage and treat Indigenous patients with mental health care needs, including a patient case study.

A GP mental health treatment plan (GPMHTP) helps people with a mental health disorder access mental health services. It also helps health professionals better manage a patient’s treatment by referring them to Medicare-subsidised allied mental health services.

Your Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander patient can receive culturally appropriate evidence-based mental health services. These are often tailored to meet the individual needs of the local population. You can find information and guidance for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health program on the Department of Health and Aged Care website.

Health professionals can use a GPMHTP under the Better Access initiative.

Make sure you read the relevant Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) item descriptions and explanatory notes on the MBS Online website. You can also read about the Better Access initiative on the Department of Health and Aged Care website.

Find out more about accessing mental health services through the mental health eLearning modules on the Health Professionals Education Resources website.

Case study

You’re a GP with mental health skills training, practising at a remote community health service. You have an 18-year-old Indigenous patient who has:

  • a history of good physical health
  • only required minimum medical attention in the past
  • recently had a health assessment.

Assessment

The patient visits you about an ongoing sleep issue that includes several bouts of insomnia. During your discussion, your patient becomes teary and shows signs of mood swings. You assess that they’re not experiencing any other physical health issues requiring treatment for their sleep condition. You’re concerned about their mental wellbeing.

To address your patient’s mental health issues, you determine they would benefit from a GPMHTP, item 2715 or 2717. You discuss this plan and they agree. You record their acceptance to proceed.

You collect information about your patient’s past and current conditions and perform a mental health examination. During your discussion, your patient reveals that for the last 6 months they’ve:

  • experienced feelings of isolation and low self esteem
  • avoided social contact from friends and family
  • had periods of sadness.

You assess that your patient is displaying signs and symptoms of depression and may need psychiatric evaluation.

Preparation of the GPMHTP

As part of your strategy to improve your patient’s mental wellbeing, you follow these steps:

  • determine that you should refer them for individual allied mental health services with a psychologist
  • discuss your assessment and strategy for managing their mental wellbeing, including the benefit limits for mental health services provided under Medicare - they agree with your plan
  • complete the necessary referral and arrange an appointment for your patient with the psychologist
  • you document all required information in their GPMHTP and provide them with a copy.

Review and ongoing support

As part of your strategy to improve your patient’s mental health you do the following:

  • schedule an appointment for a GPMHTP review consultation in 4 weeks’ time using item 2712
  • assign follow-up services with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health practitioner to monitor risk of self-harm - they’ll review the patient during weekly visits to your patient’s community
  • consider the need to refer your patient for a psychiatric assessment
  • continue to provide ongoing care and management of their mental health disorder.
Page last updated: 3 January 2024.
QC 31801