Professional support and treatment

Some young people might question why they should get support from a health professional, while others worry that getting help is embarrassing or a sign of weakness. This is a chance to talk with them about their concerns – encourage them to try getting support before making any decisions about its usefulness. It can also be helpful to explain the many benefits of seeking support from a health professional.

A health professional can help your young person to work out what’s going on, what they’re feeling and what might help. They listen, talk through ideas and help the young person to consider their options for managing their symptoms. This might take a few sessions, or it might take longer – everyone’s different. If they feel that a young person needs more help, or that their symptoms are taking a long time to subside, the health professional may consider referring the young person to a specialist, like a psychiatrist.

Treatment for anxiety and depression aims to:

  • work through thoughts and feelings
  • provide a different perspective
  • •offer ideas about how to approach the problem
  • refer to other doctors or health professionals when necessary
  • help stop anxiety and depression from coming back.

Finding a health professional

Your local GP is often a good starting point when your child or young person needs help. A GP can talk about what’s happening and the options for treatment and support. Depending on the situation, the GP might provide ongoing care or suggest that another mental health professional or support service get involved.

Mental health professionals can be accessed through your GP, community health centre, public mental health services, headspace centres and private health clinics.

You can also get advice from an LGBTI service such as QLife or find an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation through state and territory organisations.  

Transcultural mental health centres, migrant resource centres and ethnic community councils can also offer support for young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds.

Once your young person begins therapy, their health professional can recommend how often they attend sessions.

“Health care professionals have always dealt with her sensitively and kindly. If there is resistance to seeking professional help, tread very lightly, but persist. If it's obvious the young person genuinely doesn't have any rapport with a mental health professional, find another one NO MATTER how good YOU think that person is.” Fiona, parent

Understanding different treatment options

The main form of treatment for anxiety and depression are psychological therapies (talking therapies). There are a number of variations that focus on different elements of our thoughts and behaviour, but they share some common similarities.

Young people benefit most from these sessions if they feel comfortable, respected and supported. It can take a few sessions before a young person feels comfortable talking with a health professional, so encouraging them to persevere is really important. It can sometimes be helpful if the health professional has special knowledge relevant to the young person’s experience, for example a professional that has experience working with LGBTI young people, bilingual youth workers or an Aboriginal Health Worker.

If your young person is experiencing severe symptoms, their treating health professional might suggest they take medication. 

Helping to prepare

It can also be helpful to provide young people with some idea about what to expect when they see a health professional. Let them know that there will probably be lots of questions initially as the health professional gets to know them – questions about their general health and lifestyle, work and school or university experiences, relationships, and how long they have been feeling this way. Try to encourage your young person to talk openly about how they feel as the more information the health professional has, the better they’ll be able to help.

The video series below can help your young person figure out who does what and how professionals can support them. It can help to sit down and watch a couple together.
"These services are there to help the person (and their family and friends) get better and live a healthy, happy life. They won't judge you or the person at risk, they will only seek to assess what it happening and how the person can be helped. There is absolutely no shame in seeking help from these services, and it is not an 'easy option'. It takes real strength and courage to get to the point when a person admits they need help. Go and seek the help that's available, but just take it one step at a time." Stevie, friend 

Cost of getting help

Many services offered by your local doctor, community health services, headspace or public youth mental health services are either free or paid for partly by the government under Medicare.

To receive free services under Medicare for anxiety and depression, your young person will need a Mental Health Treatment Plan from their doctor. A Mental Health Treatment Plan outlines what treatment is required and why, the number of sessions available to the young person, and who the young person can see for ongoing care.

When contacting a health professional, it’s important to confirm what is covered by Medicare – what services and how many sessions. Some services may charge fees on top of the Medicare benefit but may offer a discount for health care card holders or for those with special circumstances. Some services are also covered by private health insurance.

By talking about the fees when you first contact the heath professional, you can be clear on the costs involved.

What if it’s not working?

If your young person feels things aren’t working after a few sessions or they’re not making progress, they should talk about this with the health professional. Together they can work out why it’s ‘not working’ and what could be changed to make things feel more comfortable or useful.

Sometimes young people decide to try a different health professional, and that’s OK too. While it’s great to find the right health professional first up, this doesn’t always happen. It’s important to encourage your young person to keep trying and reinforce that getting treatment is a bit like finding a teacher that you click with – it can take a few tries before they find the right professional and the right combination of treatments for them.

Throughout the recovery journey, your young person might also need different types of help from more than one health professional. In these circumstances, it’s helpful to understand the role and purpose of each professional so that the appointments feel beneficial rather than a burden.

It’s also useful to reflect on the positive aspects of each session or time with a health professional.  Even if some attempts at treatment are not entirely ‘successful’, most people learn something new about themselves or take away some positive experiences they can build on with another health professional.