Under the leadership of Peter Sugg, its CEO, the Australian and New Zealand Mental Health Association runs a series of national events, one of which is focused on mental health in rural and remote areas.
Its 7th Australian Rural & Remote Mental Health Symposium was held in the delightful conference centre at Creswick, near Ballarat. It explored mental health reform, e-mental health, rural suicide prevention, and innovative approaches to care.
The Symposium was chaired by Russell Roberts, a close friend and supporter of the NRHA. David Butt was present to give an update on expectations following the National Mental Health Commission's report to the government. Catherine King - pleased to be in her own electorate for a change - represented the federal Opposition
Nicole Lee, who works at Flinders and Curtin universities, gave a telling address in which she confirmed that the current concern over the use of methamphetamine is more a media frenzy than a reflection of a substantial increase in usage of methamphetamines. This is not to understate the seriousness of the drug's use in terms of the dysfunction it causes, particularly given the fact reported by Nicole that it is easier to get off methamphetamine usage than to stay off it.
Louise Roufeil, from the Australian Psychological Society, described aspects of the shortage of psychologists in rural and remote areas. Gordon Gregory, NRHA's CEO, talked about how an advocacy body needs to constantly to convert accepted principles for better treatment of something like mental health in rural areas into bite-sized programmatic initiatives that will make sense in the context of a government's new policy proposals. Asked how those concerned with better rural and remote mental health services should approach state governments, he said that discussion needs to begin with a fair national taxation system. This is the first step in ensuring that health services remain adequately funded.
The symposium website has more details of the program and the other activities of the ANZ Mental Health Association, which include a forthcoming conference on domestic violence.