The audio of this blog post can be found here and on my podcast Musings of KarlettaA audio blog.
I’m writing about the process and benefits of writing my own Mental Health Plan.
A number of people have told me to talk to my General Practitioner (GP) about getting a Mental Health Plan.
I have done so a number of times, but the plans seemed basic and missing important information.
It is necessary in Australia for me to have a GP made Mental Health Plan in order to access affordable mental health care.
I’ve been dealing for years with being on the Autism Spectrum, along with Depression and Anxiety.
Having simple plans was frustrating
I’ve been frustrated over the years by the simplistic information the various GP’s have asked about and recorded.
Early this year I was going through a very tough time. I wanted to admit myself to hospital. Having no suicidal intent I knew from past experience that those efforts would be fruitless.
Repeating my story was frustrating
Mainly accessing the free public mental health facilities in Brisbane, I had found myself time and time again having to repeat my stories, feelings and experiences. This is because staff are regularly replaced or moved on at the mental health clinics. It wasn’t helped by the fact that I was bouncing from share house to share house.
Having to explain myself repeatedly was bad enough with Aspergers. It is partly defined by trouble speaking.
You can read more in my ‘Why is that lady soo nervous?‘ series.
The times I was overwhelmed by how much information I had to give them, I would stutter, leave sentences unfinished and occasionally ‘go mute’. I also have a terrible memory when overwhealmed.
Researching Mental Health Plans
In March 2016 I was once again facing the frustration of having to start explaining everything again from scratch. I was also disappointed by the simplistic mental health plan my GP and I had just made.
In researching what else could be in my plan, I ended up on the Queensland Health’s website and its page of guidelines for Doctors. (NEW LINK HERE: Guidelines for Doctors/ GP MHTP Templates – GPMHSC)
(Edit March 2021: I see that the original link and the guidelines have changed. For instance, it is optional to fill out the form entirely, which I would consider a basic requirement. For me, this is further evidence that the Mental Health care of Australians is not important to the funding and appropriateness of our health system overall.
Quote: ‘It is not necessary to complete all fields when preparing the GP MHTP. GPs may choose to adapt the templates according to the needs of their practice and their patients.
It is not mandatory to use any particular form when preparing and claiming for a GP MHTP (MBS items 2700, 2701, 2715 and 2717).’)
I was surprised at the list of items that could or should go into one. Many topics I don’t remember ever discussing with my past GP’s.
I thought this list was a wonderful guideline to use to write my own version. Within two days I had written 8 pages of content.
Eight pages you may say! It wasn’t entirely easy. At each step I just picked a few bullet points that I COULD explain. The concept I used was ‘what CAN I write about? NOT what SHOULD I write about?
When I saw a GP a few days later it had been much easier to dress nicely and get on the buses to the clinic. I still wanted to go to the hospital but was also managing my responsibilities better. It was easy to agree with the doctor that I didn’t need to go to hospital – that the worst may be over for now.
Instead he reminded me about seeing an established psychologist regularly. I liked this idea and am now seeing a psychologist and a psychiatrist. The latter to get an official diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Then I can access other support.
It benefited me with my mental health team referencing parts of the document by speech and flipping pages to find passages. It was affirming. I felt in those moments that they were taking my issues seriously.
In October my Partners in Recovery worker suggested a Residential Program where I could actively work on my goals.
I was settled in and was supported to work on my goals, plan and social life. By the end of the stay I had added another five pages to my plan. That gave me a source of confidence in my writing abilities that continues to this day.
A few days later I had an Asthma Attack and could barely speak. What I could do was give out my Personal Information page. It was complete with Diagnoses, Medications, health team and emergency contact details.
The ambulance offices and treating emergency team referred to it a few times that night. It was very fortunate that I had that information on hand!
A source of confidence
Seeing the full Index page with my issues mapped out clearly was both a relief and source of pride.
I no longer had to worry about forgetting important facts about my mental health.
Writing my own Mental Health Plan has been affirming, a relief and a source of confidence.
If this interests you, I recommend writing your own.
The template bullet points I used are at health.gov.au. (NEW LINK HERE: Guidelines for Doctors/ GP MHTP Templates – GPMHSC)
Good luck writing your own Mental Health Plan!
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