MENTAL HEALTH: Rural and remote Queensland are suffering from a lack of mental health services in the area.
MENTAL HEALTH: Rural and remote Queensland are suffering from a lack of mental health services in the area. laflor

Rural Australians dying for mental health help

THERE are just two psychiatrists for every 100,000 people in remote Australia, the National Rural Health Alliance has revealed.

The analysis compared the quantity of mental health workers in major cities and country areas.

In cities there are 120 psychologists per 100,000 people, compared to just 25/100,000 in remote areas.

For mental health nurses the split is 94/100,000 in cities and 29 per 100,000 people living in remote areas.

Among the remote areas suffering a lack of professionals were Cunnamulla and Charleville.

Cunnamulla Primary Health Care Centre Social, Emotional, Wellbeing coordinator Rae Deem said it was always going to be a challenge to have more people who work in mental health to move rural.

"The reality is we can't fly in, fly out because there is a daily need. Yes, once a month services are available, but we can't find people who want to move here.

"If they want people out as far as these areas, they need to change it at the university level because students go to places on the coast for placement and refer to it as rural and remote areas.

"If you want people in these areas, you need to send them to places five hours out of a major city,” Ms Deem said.

National Rural Health Alliance CEO Mark Diamond is calling for Australia to overhaul the way it trains and supports mental health professionals to boost numbers in rural and remote areas.

"Rural Australia is not only short of GPs: All of the mental health professions are scarce,” he said.

The National Rural Health Alliance analysis also revealed Medicare spent $52.42 a person in cities, and just $8.26 a person in remote areas on mental health.

"The alliance has dug into different sets of data and built a picture Australia hasn't yet seen of the rural mental health crisis.”

The low number of mental health workers is forcing country people into hospital emergency departments.

"Nearly twice the number of people in remote areas end up in emergency for a mental health issue because there is simply no-one else to help them” Mr Diamond said.

Ms Deem said while there are services available,they didn't always know who was suffering.

"The drought has definitely played a part in mental health and its heartbreaking.

"We have options for people and we want to help, sometimes you need to squeak a bit to get the oil.

"No-one wants to see anyone else suffer.

"We need people out here and don't want to lose anyone from this earth,” she said.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics showed a clear link to suicide in rural and remote Queensland. The statistics on suicides from 2012 showed Queenslanders living outside of Brisbane and urban centres were more likely to commit suicide with 17.1 per 100,000 people compared to 10.8 per 100,000 people in the Brisbane.

"If the emergency department of your nearest hospital is the only service available, country people are more likely to delay seeking help, especially if they have to travel long distances to a hospital,” Mr Diamond said.

"It makes it much more likely their mental health illness has reached crisis point before they seek help, making it harder to recover.”

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