3 April 2017

Everyone has the right to access comprehensive, person-centred mental health supports. While not everyone who experiences mental health problems wishes to or is able to access mental health supports, many people access services or medications subsidised by the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) programs, respectively.

In 2011, over 200,000 people in NSW accessed mental health care via the MBS or PBS. Approximately 1 in 10 (10.6%) people in NSW used PBS mental health related medications, while 1 in 14 (7.3%) used MBS mental health related services such as seeing a psychologist or using GP mental health plans.

While different groups of people may have different wants or needs for their mental health care, the use of mental health care across different groups may reflect that services are not easily available to all. Below, we describe patterns of use found in NSW for people using MBS and/or PBS mental health care only.

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Of people receiving some form of care, half receive medications only, while 3 in 10 receive services only. However, different groups show different patterns of mental health care access. For example, people who are older, or who live in more rural or more disadvantaged areas are more likely to receive medications only.

Nearly a quarter of people who receive mental health care in NSW were taking antidepressant medication without any additional medications or services. In addition, 1 in 8 people were taking anxiolytics (anti-anxiety medication) only, and 1 in 15 received both. In total, 42.5% of people who receive mental health care in NSW receive antidepressants and/or anxiolytics without additional services or medications.

The most common service accessed was GP consultations, which may include for example the development of a mental health plan.

People receving one type of service may be more likely to access another type of service or medication. For example, 33% of people who see a psychiatrist also take antipsychotic medication. In comparison, only 7.8% of people who see a GP for mental health care take antipsychotic medication.

Similarly, people taking one type of medication may be more likely to access another type of service or medication. For example, 43.9% of people who take anxiolytic medication also take antidepressants. In comparison, only 14.4% of people who take psychostimulant medication also take antidepressants.

Find more information on our detailed analysis web page.

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Last updated: 4 May 2020