Editorial | Mental health matters in the spotlight in new report

When it comes to services in remote and rural Australia we’ve come to accept that we’re going to be a bit light on compared to our city counterparts.

But when it’s the difference between life and death you’d have to wonder why!

Research from the Royal Flying Doctor Service shows remote Australians die on average from suicide at twice the rate of city people – but only are only able to access mental health services at a fifth of the rate of city people.

The report also points to farmers and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as being among the most at risk of suicide.

According to RFDS CEO Martin Laverty “one in five Australians experience a mental disorder each year. In remote and rural Australia, that means 960,000 each year deal with their mental health.”

It’s more than just frustrating it’s a tragedy – a tragedy that country people deal with every day. So what does it come down to, if there’s no difference in the prevalence of mental illness? This latest report suggests ‘dramatic’ differences in how sick people become; with poor service access, distance, and cost, all factors.

Simply “country residents risk exacerbated mental illness because of insufficient early intervention and prevention services” according to the report. 

The research was a ‘snapshot’ of more than 2,500 people from different parts of the country cared for by the RFDS from July 2013 to June 2016. Included in the findings;

  • 61 per cent of people transferred by the RFDS for mental disorders were male; 
  • Schizophrenic psychosis, depressive disorders, and drug psychosis were the three main reasons for RFDS transfers of people with mental disorders;
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are 1.2 times more likely to die from mental disorders than non-Indigenous people, and 1.7 times more likely to be hospitalised.

The research makes a case for more mental health services in the bush and we’d have to agree more can and should be done to protect the hearts and minds of people living in regional areas. Read more about “Mental Health in remote and rural communities” at www.flyingdoctor.org.au/research.

If you, or anyone you know, needs help, you can contact RFDS emergency services by visiting www.flyingdoctor.org.au/contact/ or call Lifeline on 131114 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.