The government has just announced the single largest investment in eating disorder treatment we’ve ever seen, in what can only be described as a huge win for mental health support across the nation.
If you’ve ever struggled with disordered eating, or know someone that has, you’d know they’re an incredibly complex issue that often takes a long time to recover and rehabilitate from.
Thankfully, as of November 1st (today), people suffering from eating disorders will now be entitled to a Medicare rebate for a maximum of 40 psychological sessions and 20 dietetic sessions per year under the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS). This is a substantial, and potentially life-saving increase from the blanket 10 psych and 5 dietetic sessions previously given to any mental health disorder.
People suffering from eating disorders have a mortality rate of a whopping 12 times higher than the general population. Disordered eating can also increase your chance of developing additional mental health issues, substance abuse or suicidal tendencies.
Despite the high mortality rate and extreme prevalence in society, with one in 20 Australians currently living with an eating disorder, more than 70% of sufferers do not receive treatment.
However, eating disorders are extremely treatable with proper care and access to professional help. So, the latest MBS update has the potential to be life-changing to those who are suffering.
“What we know from the evidence is when you treat the eating disorder, the comorbidity starts to drop away,” eating disorder specialist, Professor Tracey Wade told Hack.
Unfortunately, you’re still going to have to jump through a few hoops to get the full 40 sessions. But according to Inside Out, the services look like they’re pretty easy to get access to if your GP/psychologist thinks you could benefit from additional sessions.
40 sessions per year equates to one session every 1.3 weeks, which could be the difference between life and death for someone who’s really struggling with disordered eating.
Under the previous scheme, patients were limited to one session every 5.2 weeks, which is an incredibly long time to go between visits. This left patients with the option to receive regular treatment for a short period of time, or sporadic sessions less than once per month. So if you couldn’t afford to pay out of pocket, you were left to take a pretty big gamble on your mental health.
“It’s really really important we can treat eating disorders early and with evidence-based care in the long term, and that’s why these new Medicare items are critical to that,” The Butterfly Foundation’s Kevin Barrow told Hack.
“Ten sessions is not a lot of care for a very serious mental illness, and so these changes will really enable the clinician to target the underlying psychological symptoms at play.”
Mental health treatment options are expensive, and if you’re already unwell, it can be really easy to use this as a reason not to seek help. By increasing the accessibility and affordability of these vital services, hopefully we’ll see an increase in people using these services and getting help.
You can read up on the increased funding, eligibility criteria and the nitty-gritty of the program on the Inside Out website.
If you or anyone you know needs help:
The Butterfly Foundation on 1800 33 4673
Lifeline on 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467
BeyondBlue on 1300 22 46 36
Headspace on 1800 650 890
If you’re in immediate danger, call 000.
Image: Netflix / To The Bone