How can COVID-19 affect my mental health?
For some individuals the constant updates in developments regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and the necessary disruptions to life routines can be overwhelming. In particular living with uncertainty and social isolation can present challenges to individuals living with pre-existing conditions such as anxiety/depression and stress related disorders. If you are feeling emotionally affected by COVID-19 your fertility clinic has details about ANZICA counsellors and other health care providers who are trained in providing expert mental health support services that can assist you.
Who are ANZICA Counsellors?
ANZICA is the peak professional Australian and New Zealand counselling organisation, dedicated to promoting the psychological and social wellbeing of individuals and couples contemplating or undergoing fertility treatment. ANZICA is a subcommittee of the Fertility Society of Australia.
If I need emotional support, where do I get this?
Be reassured, therapists to help you cope are available. Your fertility clinic can guide you on the counselling and support services provided by ANZICA counsellors. This includes ANZICA counsellors who directly work within your IVF clinic and fertility counsellors who work in private practice. Do check with your clinic to see what counselling services may be provided by your clinic as part of your care.
There are also evidenced based resources that you can access and be of help. Online support can also be obtained through Beyond Blue, at the Black Dog Institute and Lifeline. Alternatively the Australian government has also developed an authoritative digital health portal, Head to Health. This portal gives suggestions, on how to maintain good mental health during this COVID-19 outbreak and how to support others.
ACCESS, Australia’s national infertility network and fertilityNZ in New Zealand, can further provide information on ways to keep you connected with others coping with infertility and who may have experienced a delay in their fertility treatment due to disruptions created by COVID-19.
Because of the virus, I am worried about going to see a counsellor in person. What options do I have?
In the interest of public health and safety, the Australian Federal Government announced a temporary mental health initiative enabling all Australians with or without a diagnosis of COVID-19 to access relevant Telehealth consultation services. The new MBS telehealth items will allow people to access essential Medicare funded health services in their homes and reduce their risk of exposure to COVID-19.
Who can access this new Telehealth support?
Fertility clinic patients and their partners should contact their clinics in the first instance to assess available support options. In addition, Medicare has implemented access to mental health support via qualified health professionals for the Australian public. You and your family members are able to access this support however individuals would require a referral from their GP to the specific counsellor for this Medicare Telehealth service.
How many sessions can I access via this Medicare Telehealth service?
You are eligible for up to 10 psychological therapy or focused psychological strategies consultations per calendar year. This includes sessions held face to face, through videoconference or via telephone consultation.
Do I need a referral to claim the new temporary MBS Telehealth items?
Yes, all MBS items for referred attendances require a valid referral from your GP.
What if I don’t have access to a computer?
If you don’t have a computer to be able to do a videoconference you can access the Medicare Telehealth consultation by telephone.
Are there any geographical restrictions on the new temporary MBS Telehealth items?
There are no geographical restrictions on the new MBS items – the patient and the provider can have their consultation at any location in Australia.
What about IVF Support Groups during this COVID-19 outbreak?
As everyone must practise social distancing to slow down the spread of COVID-19, in person IVF support groups are not possible during this outbreak. However, there are many on-line support groups still active during this time. You might find it helpful to ask your IVF clinic what local on-line support communities are available to their patients. You will find that most clinics have their own on-line support groups, and if not, they can certainly help direct you to other regional and national supports.
Is there a general COVID-19 helpline?
National COVID-19 Helpline operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Telephone enquiries can be made at 1800 020 080. Alternatively, for up-to-date information contact the contact the Australian Department of Health or the New Zealand Department of Health.
Links to professional mental health and support services