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The importance of GPs in mental health

In 2020–21, almost 13% of Australians aged 16–85 saw a GP for their mental health.1

In 2019–20, approximately 30% of Medicare-subsidised services specific to mental health were provided by GPs.7 In a recent report, GPs reported – for the sixth consecutive year – that psychological conditions (including sleep disturbance and depression) were the most commonly reported reasons for patient presentations.8

This is why GPs need skills and knowledge to identify and address patients’ mental health needs.

Skills and knowledge GPs need to provide mental health services

GPMHSC-accredited training provides GPs with the fundamental skills required to assess a patient’s needs, recommend appropriate referral options, and manage a patient’s ongoing mental health care in the context of general practice.

In Australia, ‘general practice mental health care’ refers to the assessment, management and ongoing care of people who experience mental illness of varying degrees.

To provide general practice mental health care, GPs need to be able to:

  • identify mental health issues
  • ensure that the patient receives appropriate care.

Identifying mental health issues

This includes being able to:

  • perform a biopsychosocial assessment, taking into account the patient’s chronic and acute physical and mental health issues, and their past and present personal, social and cultural circumstances (the GPMHSC does not endorse any diagnostic tool for GPs, who may choose the assessment method and diagnostic tool they believe to be the most suitable)
  • identify early warning signs of mental illness
  • identify risk factors of mental illness
  • identify signs of suicide risk, and respond accordingly
  • provide support and advice that can reduce risk factors and potentially prevent mental illness.

Ensuring appropriate care

This includes being able to:

  • provide or recommend appropriate care based on the patient’s assessed needs (such as e-mental health for mild mental health issues, and face-to-face counselling for moderate to severe mental health issues) and cultural factors that may influence the model of care chosen
  • provide continuity of care, which is a key component of the successful treatment of people with mental illness
  • use and participate in a multidisciplinary approach to care

Useful GPMHSC resources

Suicide prevention and first aid: A resource for GPs.
After suicide: A resource for GPs.
Practice guide: Communication between medical and mental health professionals
Working with the Stepped Care Model: Mental health services through general practice.


GP Mental Health Treatment Plans


  • provide continuity of care for people with a mental illness
  • provide a structured framework for GPs to undertake assessment, early intervention and management of patients with a mental illness
  • assist with coordination of care and provide a referral pathway to allied mental health service providers
  • allow the GP to actively involve the patient and carer, where possible, in their care.

GP MHTP templates

The GP MHTP templates can enhance the quality of mental health care provided and support GPs to manage common mental health disorders under the Better Access initiative.

The templates provide prompts in the assessment, treatment planning and review of patients with symptoms of a mental illness, and assist in documenting this information.

The GPMHSC has published four templates:

  • a short-form template titled Minimal requirements
  • a template for use with adult patients
  • a template for use with child and adolescent patients
  • a template for use as a Subjective Objective Assessment Plan.

It is not necessary to complete all fields when preparing the GP MHTP. GPs may choose to adapt the templates according to the needs of their practice and their patients. It is not mandatory to use any particular form when preparing and claiming for a GP MHTP.

Reviewing a patient’s GP MHTP

GP MHTPs do not expire at the end of a calendar year, so the patient does not need a new plan to continue their GP MHTP into the next calendar year unless the referring practitioner considers it is clinically required.

This means that a patient can continue to be eligible for rebated allied mental health services in the next calendar year under their existing plan, if the referring GP assesses that the patient continues to need these services.

Generally, new plans should not be developed within 12 months of the previous plan, unless the referring practitioner considers it to be clinically required.

A GP can assess and manage the patient’s progress and write a new referral for further services using any of the following:

  • GP MHTP review item (MBS item 2712)
  • general practice mental health consultation item (MBS item 2713)
  • standard general practice consultation item (MBS items 23, 36 and 44).

Useful GPMHSC resources

GP Mental Health Treatment Plan
GP MHTP templates.