Mental health has been a major talking point since the COVID-19 pandemic began and with many people still isolated from loved ones, more and more individuals are seeking out support.
Should counsellor appointments be subsidised by Medicare?
With a shortage of professionals, especially in regional and rural areas, counsellors are calling on the Federal Government to include them on the Medicare Benefits Scheme, so waiting lists for people needing professional help are reduced.
"There are clinical psychologists, psychiatrists and mental health social workers and other allied health professionals who are able to assist and are on the Medicare Benefits Scheme but there are 4000 councillors with Bachelors and Masters degrees and professional experience that are not," Hobart's The EPICentre co-owner and counsellor Darren Radley said.
Mr Radley said one of the biggest issues for people is lack of mental health support in regional areas.
"There is a high concentration of psychologists in big cities and there is a lack of psychologists in regional areas but many counsellors live in regional areas and could provide services that are seriously lacking," he said.
"Our job is to do early intervention as we work (primarily) with the worried well.
"That's not their (psychologists or psychiatrists) gap to fill but because we are not on the Medicare Benefits Scheme, people are waiting weeks, or months or even a year to see a psychologist and by then their mental health symptoms may have developed into a serious mental health condition, such as severe depression.
"If there were more worried well being referred to counsellors, that would free up the waiting lists substantially so that people with more serious disorders could be seen more quickly by a psychologist."
Mr Radley's wife Jeanette, who co-owns The EPICentre, said being included in the scheme would mean counsellors, like her and her husband, were being recognised as having similar skills to other professionals who are included.
"Doctors are writing referrals for patients to see us but we can't see them on their mental health plan," she said.
"Clients don't have the money and it is heartbreaking to turn them away.
"Sometimes we do see people at no cost but people shouldn't have to be put in that position.
"Suicide rates have increased since 2006 when Medicare for mental health was introduced.
"We should have seen a drop but instead we have seen an increase."
IN OTHER NEWS:
Despite the duo saying they have similar qualifications to other mental health professionals, Federal Braddon Member Gavin Pearce disagreed.
"As the minister, he (Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt) is responsible for ensuring that the care that is given is true, correct, balanced, appropriate and is fit for purpose," Mr Pearce said.
"In order to do that, then he needs to ensure the bonafides of those deliverers of that care.
"Unless they have a certain formalised training in a certain particular skill, then he can't do that.
"I keep making the point that we shouldn't look at mental health any differently to physical health.
"You wouldn't let a doctor prescribe medication unless they were a qualified general practitioner.
"The same thing goes for mental health doctors."
Federal government's commitment to mental health
Mr Pearce said improving people's mental health has been an interest of his for a long period of time.
"Prior to me be elected to the 46th Parliament, most people would know I spent 20 years of my life in the military," he said.
"I've always had an active interest and active pursuit in looking after people and raising awareness of mental health issues, not just for veterans but for all people.
"That's continued during my time in parliament."
Mr Pearce said the federal government had spent billions on improving the mental health of the nation.
"Along the (Tasmanian) Coast here, there are many that suffer from a mental illness and one in five of the adult community in Tasmania will at one point in their life suffer from some form of mental health issue," he said.
"To that end, the government has stepped up with a $2.4 billion augmentation to the mental health strategy and that takes our total spend on mental health in 2021/22 to $6.3 billion."
The funding is aimed at prevention and early intervention, suicide prevention, treatment, supporting the vulnerable and workforce and governance.
Improvements to Tasmanian coastal men's sheds, increasing headspace support programs and improved services for young people and veterans are just some of the projects in the Braddon electorate that will be funded.
Action needed on review findings
Tasmania's Shadow Mental Health Minister Anita Dow said the pandemic had emphasised the need for more support for youths in particular.
"There is a need for recruitment of additional mental health staff across the region," she said.
"That's been identified through numerous reviews that the state government has undertaken and one that comes to mind is the CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) review.
"One of the key findings of that is around better support for mental health professionals but also making sure we are able to attract and retain more mental health professionals across the state."
If you or someone you know has been affected by this story, please call:
Want daily news highlights delivered to your inbox? Sign up to the Queensland Country Life newsletter below.