Almost half of Australians accessing mental health services through their private health insurance would lose some or all access to their existing mental healthcare if it wasn’t covered, despite 87 per cent agreeing mental wellbeing is as important as physical health, according to the results of a new survey.
Research conducted on behalf of HCF, Australia’s largest not for profit health fund, found that 46 per cent would either stop using (22%) or cut down (24%) access to mental health support services if it was not available through their private health fund.
The results of the survey* of 3000 people have been released in the wake of the Federal Government’s record Budget commitment of $2.3 billion for mental health.
HCF Chief Officer Member Health, Julie Andrews, said the survey results showed that it was more important than ever that people had access to a range of quality mental health support services.
“Mental health can be a complex field of care, which is why healthcare providers and funders, including private health funds, need to help people navigate their options of support,” Ms Andrews said.
“Our research tells us that more than one in two (54%) Australians have either experienced mental health issues themselves or know someone who has, but we also know there’s no one size fits all solution.”
To give people greater choice in how and where care is delivered, HCF introduced an exclusive range of industry-leading mental health and wellbeing programs.
“There is no doubt the mental health of Australians has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. We received great pick up of our online and telehealth services after introducing them last April, which may indicate that people are reaching out for help earlier in their healthcare journeys to deal with life’s complexities in a healthy way,” Ms Andrews said.
“By enabling easy, online access to healthcare professionals and bespoke support, we’re focused on adapting and innovating to meet members’ changing health needs, while making mental healthcare more affordable for more people.”
HCF has partnered with Hello Sunday Morning, an Australian not-for-profit organisation dedicated to helping all types of people who want to change their relationship with alcohol, to give members access to Daybreak – an anonymous alcohol support program. So far 70 per cent of participants have been females who have sought help early in their health journey, compared with 30 per cent of men who have typically entered via the severe pathway.
Mother of three Hannah Rodger, of Balmain, said her mantra of “work hard, play hard” changed with children in the home.
“I’d feel stressed and have a drink, or celebrate something and have a drink, but I eventually realised that drinking had more of a control over me than I had over it. I didn’t want to tell anyone because our social life revolved around the pub and I genuinely did not know a single person who was successful and didn’t drink,” Ms Rodger said.
“We’d go to the pub as a family on Sundays but get the bus there so we could drink, but if anything happened to the kids we couldn’t act quickly. We would also save our heavy drinking for when the kids weren’t around so we were very aware that it wasn’t responsible, which was also a big motivation for me to stop.”
Through the Daybreak app, Ms Rodger said she was able to identify how her relationship with alcohol was affecting her mental health.
“There was immediate peer support there with the daybreak app, I could just post a little bit about how I was feeling and there was always someone in the same position or a few weeks ahead of me who could support me,” Ms Rodger said.
“There’s enough mum guilt in the world without anybody else telling people what to do, but I’ve realised for me it’s super important for the kids to have role models who don’t drink away their emotions.”
*A nationally representative survey of 3061 Australians 18+, commissioned by HCF and conducted by 5th Dimension Research and Consulting, between the 15th December 2020 and the 5th January 2021.
HCF, Australia’s largest not-for-profit health fund protecting Australians since 1932, covers over 1.7 million members with health and life insurance, and travel and pet insurance.