Mental health services in regional and remote Australia
Recent reports suggest that Australians living in regional and remote areas are not able to access the mental health support they need.
One in five Australians will experience a mental health disorder each year, and with 29% of the population living in regional or remote areas, the need for mental health services is significant.
According to the National Health Survey, people who live in regional and remote areas reported slightly higher rates of mental health problems than people living in cities.
Furthermore, Australians living in rural and remote areas tend to have a lower life expectancy and higher rates of disease, which can have a negative impact on mental health.
The problem is made worse by poor access to health care services. According to the National Rural Health Alliance, people in cities receive on average 40% more mental health services than those in rural and remote areas. Further data shows that the total number of registered psychologists in Australia is around 30,000 but only 18% are based outside of a city. The number of GP services per person in a regional area is half of that found in a city. All of this means that people may need to travel long distances to receive treatment and may not seek the treatment they need because of the inconvenience.
On the Line’s Suicide Call Back Service and MensLine Australia counselling services can fill some of these gaps. Both services are free and available 24/7, giving communities access to support when they need it. All calls are answered by professionally trained counsellors who can assess the risk and provide the person with strategies to help their situation.
On the Line is also delivering low-intensity counselling services in specific primary health network regions, such as Country South Australia. The Regional Access service is available via telephone or web chat and focuses on preventative psychological care, that is, giving support before mild symptoms of mental illness escalate.
Other services that are also helping include the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Last year they provided counselling for over 24,000 people, but they feel that they have barely touched the surface. They believe that mental health services in rural and remote Australia are in a state of crisis.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2016. Australia’s health 2016. Australia’s health series no. 15. Cat. no. AUS 199. Canberra: AIHW
2014–15 National Health Survey (NHS) (ABS 2015)
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2013. Allied health workforce 2012. National health
workforce series no. 5. Cat. no. HWL 51. Canberra: AIHW.
About On the Line Australia
On the Line is a national provider of some of Australia’s most vital and trusted services including MensLine Australia, Suicide Call Back Service and SuicideLine (Victoria). On the Line counsellors are expert in suicide and trauma-informed practice for anyone affected by suicide, mental health, men’s mental health, family violence (using and experiencing), healthy relationships, chronic health conditions, and substance abuse.
Our 24/7 telephone, web chat and video counselling services are staffed by professional counsellors, psychologists or social workers. All our counsellors are multi-skilled across telephone, web chat and video counselling and highly experienced providing interventions from crisis support to general counselling.