When teens are struggling, people often tell them to “talk to a professional”. But some teens are nervous about seeing a doctor or a counsellor. Adults can make it easier by explaining what to expect.
A trusted GP is a good person to see first. GPs look at all the things that affect your health, such as physical illness, medication, or stress.
A GP can also help you develop a mental health care plan, which gives you up to 10 individual sessions and 10 group sessions each year with a mental health professional under the Medicare rebate. This means you get the sessions at a reduced cost or for free.
Your GP might manage your treatment directly or refer you to a specialist.
Counsellors help teens to talk about everyday problems, manage their feelings, find solutions and make plans.
Psychologists diagnose and treat mental health problems like depression or anxiety and counsel teens to cope during tough times.
Psychiatrists are medical doctors with specialized training in mental health. They treat teens with serious or complex mental health problems using different treatments, sometimes including medication.
Some teens prefer to see a professional of a particular age, sex, or cultural background, someone they know already, or a new person.
GPs and parents should check the professional’s qualifications and background carefully.
A good mental health professional should:
Contact the health service to book an appointment. Ask them:
Some clinics bulk bill, which means it’s free. Others don’t. If you have a mental health care plan, the Medicare rebate will cover the costs of your sessions up to a certain amount. But if the clinic charges more, you might have to pay the “gap”.
Before your appointment, check:
When you arrive, the receptionist might ask you to fill out a form with your contact details and emergency contacts.
The professional should explain to you how confidentiality works. In most cases, they will keep anything you tell them private, unless you give them permission to tell someone, or unless someone is at risk of serious harm.
However, the laws about confidentiality for teens vary between states and territories, so don’t be afraid to ask questions.
The professional should talk to you about:
Try to be as upfront and honest as you can. The professional will not be freaked out – remember, they do this for a living!
When teens go to appointments with their parents, the professional often asks the parents to step outside for a while. This is in case the teens have anything confidential they want to say.
Everyone’s mental health is different and health services are different too. You might need to try a few before you find one that’s right for you. Persevere and try not to get discouraged.