Monique* has worked as a GP in regional Victoria for over 20 years. She combines private practice with work at headspace, where she specialises in youth mental health. Monique is also a parent and carer for her child who has experienced complex mental health challenges from early adolescence and into adulthood.
The experience as a parent and carer is like being on a massive rollercoaster. The fact that all your love and support can’t protect your child from mental health difficulties is pretty confronting for parents. The fear and distress and confusion that their difficulties might be our fault as parents was pretty challenging to deal with, let alone seeing the distress and pain our teenager was going through. Even as well‑resourced parents, we were shocked by some of the interactions we and our teenager had whilst navigating [the system].
Accessing specialist help in regional Victoria can bring additional challenges. Monique’s child received multiple diagnoses throughout adolescence and early adulthood.
The various assessments, formulations and explanations we were given over many years completely missed an underlying neurodevelopmental disorder … This illustrates the importance of holistic, comprehensive, non‑fragmented and ‘over time’ assessments.
Monique notes that where there is a lack of services in rural and regional settings, GPs often hold the responsibility for mental health treatment, care and support.
GPs often provide a single thread of continuity for some of these young people in rural and regional settings. The [Medicare Benefits Scheme] does not reimburse us for our time or commitment to their care.
Monique’s lived experience as a carer has shaped her professional pathway.
I was … deeply ashamed of negative attitudes and internalised stigma that some of my medical peers and some other health professionals displayed—it was shocking to me that this was sometimes worse than in the wider community. This made me really driven to make a difference where I could.
In my opinion, kindness, respect, collaborative decision making, clear patient centred explanations, advocacy and support make a huge difference and GPs are a vital cog in the system.
Source: ‘Monique’ (pseudonym), Correspondence to the RCVMHS, November 2020.
Note: *Name has been changed to protect privacy.