Health workers

There are many health workers who can support the mental health of people with intellectual disability.

Health workers can sometimes be called health professionals.

If you need help to find a health worker you can ask someone you trust such as your:

  • carer
  • family members
  • guardian. A guardian is a person who helps you make decisions about parts of your life when you cannot make decisions by yourself. 
  • friends
  • other health workers.


General practitioner


A GP is a doctor you see when you are sick or need a health check. A GP is also known as a general practitioner.

A GP is usually the best person to speak to for anyone with concerns about their mental health.

A GP can:

  • give you information about mental health
  • suggest a mental health worker who is right for you.

To find out more about GPs visit healthdirect.

To find a GP in your local area you can:

  • visit healthdirect
  • ask someone you trust
  • ask a local chemist for their suggestions.




A psychiatrist is a doctor who helps you with your mental health using talking and medication.

You may see a psychiatrist in:

  • private practice. This means the psychiatrist works for themselves.
  • a community mental health centre
  • an emergency department
  • hospital.

A psychiatrist can:

  • do assessments. An assessment is when a mental health worker asks you questions about you and your health. They use this information to work out the best way to help you.
  • suggest medication that will help you. Medication is sometimes called medicine or drugs. Medicine can be in a tablet, a pill, a drink, or an injection. Doctors let people know which medicine to take to help make them better.
  • provide therapies. Therapies are activities your mental health workers use to support your mental health.

To find out more about psychiatrists visit healthdirect.

To find a psychiatrist:

You need a referral from a doctor to see a psychiatrist. A referral is when a doctor suggests you see a health worker who can help you.




A psychologist helps you with your mental health by talking with you. Psychologists help you find things you can do to feel better. Psychologists do not give you medication.

There are different types of psychologists.

For example, clinical psychologists have specialist training in treating mental health problems.

A mental illness is when your feelings and thoughts make it hard to do things.

A clinical psychologist can:

  • assess your mental health
  • provide therapies.

Another type of psychologist is a neuropsychologist. A neuropsychologist knows a lot about how the brain works. They do assessments to find out what your strengths are and what you may need support with.

To find out more about psychologists visit healthdirect.

To find a psychologist in your local area:


Mental health nurse


A mental health nurse is a nurse who focusses on helping people with mental health problems.

Mental health nurses usually work as part of a team of health workers in:

  • GP clinics
  • the community
  • nursing homes
  • hospitals.

For some people a mental health nurse will be their main contact with the health system.

A mental health nurse can:

  • check on how a person’s mental health is
  • provide some therapies
  • help people take their medications.

To find out more about mental health nurses visit healthdirect.

You can speak to your GP or other mental health worker about mental health nurses.


Social worker


A social worker is a mental health worker who helps you find the support you need to stay well.

A social worker can provide:

  • counselling. Counselling is discussing issues in your life with a health worker who can help you.
  • information on services that can support your mental health
  • advocacy. Advocacy is having your voice heard so your rights and needs are met.
  • help to get support from other services like
    • emergency accommodation. Emergency accommodation is for people who have nowhere to live and need somewhere to stay.
    • support with money
    • health services
    • legal services. Legal services support you with things to do with the law.

To find out more about social workers visit healthdirect.

To find a social worker visit the Australian Association of Social Workers Find a Social Worker.




A counsellor communicates with you about issues in your life and helps you fix them.

A counsellor can support you to:

  • find ways to feel better
  • cope with difficulties.

To find out more about counsellors visit healthdirect.

To find a counsellor in your local area:

SANE Australia offers a free counselling service. Counsellors are available via phone, webchat, or email from 10am to 10pm Monday to Friday. They will listen to what is concerning you and give you ideas for longer-term help.

SANE also has a new Guided service that has begun in some areas of Australia. This service offers free online and telehealth services and support to people 18 years or older with complex mental health needs. Support is available for people with intellectual disability or autism. There is also support for families and carers.




A psychotherapist helps with mental health by using talking therapies to help you learn ways to cope with stressful things in your life. A psychotherapist is often a:

  • psychologist or
  • psychiatrist or
  • counsellor.

A psychotherapist can support you to:

  • change your thinking
  • improve your coping skills.

To find out more about psychotherapists visit healthdirect.

To find a psychotherapist in your local area:


Occupational therapist


An occupational therapist is a health worker who can support people to take part in daily activities and support them to learn new skills. Occupational therapists are sometimes called an OT.

An OT can:

  • find your strengths and difficulties
  • support you to take part in everyday life.

To find out more about occupational therapists:

To find an occupational therapist in your local area:


Peer worker


Peer workers are people who have a lived experience of mental health problems, disability, or both. They use their own life experiences to help others. They can support people individually or in groups.

Peer workers can work in hospital teams or support people in the community.

You can find out more here:

To find a peer worker in your local area:

  • ask your mental health workers if there are peer support programs you could be a part of
  • ask if local disability support providers and mental health groups offer peer support. If you are a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participant, you can ask your NDIS Support Coordinator.
  • SANE Australia can connect you with a peer worker.