How Medicare’s reform will help people with eating disorders

Stock image.
Stock image.

EATING disorders are a serious mental illness, writes Duncraig clinical psychologist Dr Isabel Fernandez.

Currently about four per cent of the Australian population is experiencing an eating disorder, which is close to 1 million people.

Many people experiencing an eating disorder also suffer from depression and/or anxiety.

Suicide rates for anorexia are 32 times higher than the general population.

Recognition of eating disorders as real and treatable diseases is critically important.

I welcome the Medicare reform that came into play from November 1. It will enable eligible patients to receive a Medicare rebate for the development of a treatment and management plan by a medical practitioner, regular GP reviews of their progress, and a formal specialist review.

It will also give eligible patients access to up to 40 evidence based psychology treatment services in a 12 month period, and up to 20 dietetic services depending on their treatment needs.

This reform indicates people are starting to recognise the serious nature of these issues and the urgent need for improved psychology treatment options in the community.

I have been providing psychology support to local community members for more than 14 years and I’m confident the Medicare change will bring Australia’s publicly-funded eating disorder treatment closer to best practice.

While there are many high-quality public eating disorder services in Australia, wait times can often be long due to demand.

People seeking help can access clinical psychology services from private practices in their local community, making treatment for eating disorders more accessible and affordable.

— If you or someone you know needs help call Lifeline WA on 13 11 14, 24 hours a day or dial 000 if life is in danger.

— The Butterfly Foundation provides support for those experiencing an eating disorder, friends, family, carers and professionals. Call the National Help Line on 1800 33 4673.