How to navigate the NSW mental health system 

The mental health system is there for people who experience mental health issues to support them to recover, improve their mental health and live well in the community. Many people have told us that it is hard to understand the mental health system and therefore it can be hard to find the services they need. 

Where to get help?

Your GP is generally the best place to start unless you are experiencing a crisis. If you need immediate help call the Mental Health Access Line on 1800 011 511 or an ambulance on 000.

There are also government and non-government services that are available either through referral from your GP or that you can refer yourself to. These could be (but  are not limited to):

  • Support services that visit you at home for a short visit once a week 
  • Support services that visit you at home, assist with appointments and accessing the community/linking with other services 
  • Support services that visit you at home, assist with appointments, home duties such as cooking and cleaning plus accessing the community/linking with other services
  • Intensive support through rehabilitation type programs that require you to live in a group environment for the period of the program
  • Supports to access education or vocational activities
  • Transport support services .

The NDIS is the scheme for people with disability, including psychosocial disability related to mental illness. It provides funding directly to individuals to enable people to purchase the reasonable and necessary supports they need. 

Who funds what?

  • The Australian Government (Commonwealth) takes responsibility for national policies, regulations, funding of health care and the delivery of primary health care through Medicare. 
  • The NSW government is responsible for services through public hospitals and community mental health, public health, ambulance and public dental services; and mental health programs. 
  • Primary Health Networks (PHNs) have been established to create a more integrated and efficient health system, including mental health. They do not deliver direct services, but they play a role in funding mental health and suicide prevention programs and are assigned with helping create tools to help people navigate the system.   

What are the costs?

Mental Health Services through the public mental health system (hospital and community teams) are free of charge. Private services such as private hospitals, private psychologists and private psychiatrists will generally attract a cost above what you might be able to claim through Medicare. 

NDIS provides funding to people based on a plan that is approved with the person. There should not be any costs associated with the support provided as part of the persons package. 

Health literacy

The Mental Health Commission is embarking on a Health Literacy initiative that will improve opportunities for people to access services earlier. It will also empower people with lived experience of mental health issues, their carers and kinship groups to understand and be able to choose tailored care options that will improve their health. 

A key element of health literacy is collaboration with a range of organisations and stakeholders to ensure a coordinated approach is achieved in the development of health resources, information and navigation tools that will be available to the community. 

Other places to get help


The Commission acknowledges that services complement the efforts people with lived experience of mental illness make in their own recovery, which includes informal supports often provided by family, carers, support people and communities. 

Navigating the mental health system and integration, coordination and collaborations were themes in the Review of the Mental Health Commission of New South Wales undertaken in 2018.

The Commission engaged Jacq Hackett Consulting to define what is meant by "integration, coordination and collaboration" and identify how this can be achieved at the service level. Download the report here.