The mental health of Australians 2

3.5 Service providers and patterns of service use

Page last updated: May 2009

3.5.1 Service providers
3.5.2 Patterns of service use

3.5.1 Service providers

General practitioners were the group of health care professionals most commonly consulted for mental health problems, followed by psychologists. Consultation with both general practitioners and psychologists was highest among people with affective disorders (Table 3-7).

As has previously been reported, 34.9% or 1.1 million people with 12-month mental disorders used health services for mental health problems in the previous 12 months. Of this group:
  • more than two thirds (70.8%) consulted general practitioners
  • more than one third (37.7%) consulted psychologists
  • almost one quarter (22.7%) consulted psychiatrists
  • one-fifth (22.1%) consulted other mental health professionals, who were defined in the survey as mental health nurses and other health professionals working in specialised mental health settings and
  • just under one-fifth (18.8%) consulted other health professionals, who include social workers, occupational therapists and counsellors providing general services, medical doctors other than psychiatrists or general practitioners, and practitioners of complementary and alternative medicines.

Table 3-7: Health professionals consulted by 12-month mental disorder class

Health Professional

Affective disorders (%)

Anxiety disorders (%)

Substance use disorders (%)

Any mental disorders (%)

General practitioner
78.3
68.5
68.6
70.8
Psychologist
39.6
37.1
37.9
37.7
Psychiatrist
23.5
23.9
24.1
22.7
Other mental health professional
27.3
22.1
37.2
22.1
Other health professional
19.7
19.9
23.7
18.8
Mental health admission
12.3
7.2
17.2
7.5

Note: Columns do not total to 100% as people may have consulted more than one type of health professional.

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3.5.2 Patterns of service use

Over one quarter (28.9%) of people with 12-month mental disorders received services for their mental health problems from a general practitioner only (Table 3-8).

Almost two thirds (64.2%) of people with 12-month mental disorders received services from mental health professionals, either alone or in combination with services provided by general practitioners or other health professionals. Mental health professionals are psychiatrists, psychologists, mental health nurses and other health professionals working in specialised mental health settings.

A relatively small proportion (6.1%) of people consulted other health professionals and did not consult a mental health professional.

This profile of service use was similar for all classes of mental disorder.

Table 3-8: Patterns of service use by health professional category and 12-month mental disorder class

Health professional

Affective disorders (%)

Anxiety disorders (%)

Substance use disorders (%)

Any mental disorder (%)

General practitioner only
29.0
27.4
22.0
28.9
Mental health professionals
65.8
64.9
72.5
64.2
Other health professionals
3.7
6.7
4.0
6.1

Note: Consultations with complementary and alternative therapists are excluded.