Federal Government urged to consider lived experience peer support ahead of mental health forum

More effective use of lived experience peer support should be considered at the Federal Government’s forum in Canberra on 30 January 2023 to look at improving affordable access to mental health support. 

Eating Disorders Families Australia (EDFA), a national organisation providing support and education to families caring for a loved one with an eating disorder, has also called for the reinstatement of access to 20 Medicare-funded psychology sessions.

From January 1, 2023, 10 essential Medicare-funded psychology services were removed from the Government’s Better Access Initiative, negatively impacting carers of those with eating disorders.

EDFA Executive Director Jane Rowan said a poll of EDFA’s members found more than half would deprive themselves of essential psychological support as a result of the Federal Government’s reduced access to Medicare-funded sessions. 

“Our carers are fighting a long and typically exhausting battle as they support their loved ones on the recovery journey. Our research shows they are living with heightened stress levels and have a significant likelihood of developing their own conditions of anxiety and depression,” Ms Rowan said.

“Access to support for carers is essential. We urge the Federal Government to consider all means of ensuring this access exists when it’s needed, whether that is through Medicare-funded psychology sessions or through better utilisation of lived experience peer support and counselling.”

Ms Rowan said carers needed support to remain functional and increase the chances of recovery for those with eating disorders. Support is also essential to help families and carers develop skills in engaging and supporting someone with an eating disorder. 

In a submission to the Federal Government, EDFA has also recommended embedding family and carer inclusive practices into Better Access with the use of specific and separate item numbers depending on whether the consumer is or is not present.

EDFA  has also recommended the provision of eating disorder treatment education for health care professionals to ensure delivery of effective referral and patient planning and including the carer as part of that process and multidisciplinary care team. 

“Addressing these priorities will facilitate the important voice of carers playing a critical role in improving recovery outcomes and the mental health of the entire family,” Ms Rowan said.

For further information, please contact EDFA on 1300 195 626 or admin@edfa.org.au