This could be for you if you...
- are thinking of seeing a psychologist
- want to know about medical options for dealing with a mental illness
- want to know how to get psychiatry through Medicare
- want to know about confidentiality
What's a psychiatrist?
A psychiatrist is a doctor who's trained to become a mental health specialist. They're good for stuff like severe depression and anxiety, bipolar and schizophrenia, as well as other serious mental health issues. Because they're doctors as well as having psychological training, psychiatrists can prescribe medication if they think it'll help you.
Your psychiatrist should listen to you as well as prescribing medication. If you're seeing one who's not listening, and you can't get through to them, you can go back to the GP who referred you and ask to see another one. You can take family members or friends to psychiatrist and GP appointments.
It's good to find a psychiatrist you like and trust to help you. Like counsellors, not everyone is going to be for you, and it can take a few tries before you find someone who's going to work out.
Talking can be a big help, but your psychiatrist might think you need medication as well as therapy. You don't have to agree, and it's up to you whether you take it. You can also get another opinion from a different psychiatrist if you want. You can talk to a psychiatrist about what the medication is meant to do, and how the side effects will feel. Check out our fact sheet, 'Medication', for more info.
Appointments and privacy
You'll normally have to book a time to see a psychiatrist. If they're busy, you might have to wait a while before your first appointment. If things are desperate, tell them it's urgent – they might be able to clear a spot, or send you to someone with more time.
All doctors, including psychiatrists, have to keep what they talk about with their patients confidential. This is true unless a court orders them to give up information, or they have to stop serious harm coming to you or another person. It's always a good idea to talk about what is and is not private with someone who's treating you, so you're both on the same page.
A psychiatrist working in a public hospital or mental health centre is free of charge. But psychiatrists who work privately might ask you to pay each time you visit. Ask them how much it costs before each visit, and how much you'll get back from Medicare. Psychiatrists in private practice sometimes bulk bill as well. That means they'll get a cheque direct from Medicare, and you just have to bring your Medicare card or number. You can find this out by looking at the family's Medicare card, or by ringing Medicare on 132 011. Once you're fifteen, you can get your own card.
Find someone to talk to
Lifeline and Kids Helpline can give you someone to talk to now, or they can let you know who's in your area if you want a psychiatrist or counsellor.