Research by the Royal Flying Doctor Service has revealed the shortage of mental health services in rural Australia and the harsh reality of the problem.
Research by the Royal Flying Doctor Service has revealed the shortage of mental health services in rural Australia and the harsh reality of the problem. mactrunk

Study reveals extent of suicide risk in remote areas

NEW research reveals that people living in remote parts of Australia commit suicide at twice the rate of city people, yet are only able to access mental health services at a fifth of the rate.

The Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) report "Mental Health in remote and rural communities" identifies farmers and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as among the most at risk of suicide.

RFDS CEO Martin Laverty said one-in-five Australians experienced a mental disorder each year.

"In remote and rural Australia, that means 960,000 each year deal with their mental health. Yet country people can't access the same services as people in the city," he said.

"There's no difference in prevalence of mental illness between city and bush yet Flying Doctor research reveals dramatic differences in how sick people become.

"Poor service access, distance, cost, and continued reluctance to seek help all contribute to higher mental illness acuity."

The research shows there is no difference in common mental health risk factors of family history, stressful events, substance use and health problems between city and bush, country residents risk exacerbated mental illness because of insufficient early intervention and prevention services.

The research studied a snapshot of 2567 people flown by air from different parts of country Australia for emergency mental health care by the RFDS between July 2013 and June 2016.

The research revealed:

* Schizophrenic psychosis, depressive disorders and drug psychosis were the three main reasons for RFDS transfers of people with mental disorders.

* 61% of people transferred by the RFDS with mental disorders were male.

* The age range of people transferred by the RFDS with mental disorders was between four years and 85 years of age, with the mean age being 35-39 years.

* 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.

* Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people aged 12-24 years are three times as likely to be hospitalised with mental illness as non-Indigenous young people.

* Mental health disorders are associated with other illness such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and avoidable injury.

Mr Laverty said the research outlined 13 specific mental health programs operated by the RFDS in the last financial year.

They range from visiting mental health clinics and 24-hour telehealth services through to emergency air transfers of people requiring city-based acute care.

"This research makes the case for more mental health resources in the bush," Mr Laverty said.

"The RFDS is grateful to government for the support it provides, but more is needed."

If you need help or know someone who does, contact Lifeline on 131114.


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