The review of mental health services and programs currently being conducted by the National Mental Health Commission includes a particular focus on the challenges for regional, rural and remote Australia and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The National Rural Health Alliance made a submission to the review, based on our longstanding commitment to better mental health services for the people of rural and remote Australia.
The NRHA submission provides an overview of the state of mental health in rural and remote Australia. It includes new evidence, sourced from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), showing clearly that people in rural and remote areas are disadvantaged in access to Medicare-funded mental health services. This is one of the unique challenges people in rural and remote communities face in their experience of mental illness and is affected by insufficient access to mental health professionals.
Recommendations from the Alliance include a greater focus on continuing professional development in mental health for all front line health professionals in rural and remote areas, and improving mental health first aid capacity of front line agencies and workers outside the health sector. Further appropriate use of online and telephone mental health services will be important, as will continuation of effective rural mental health programs that are already targeted to rural communities. There also needs to be better recognition and resourcing of community organisations with the capacity to provide support for good mental health and community wellbeing in rural areas.