The National Rural Health Alliance, Mental Health Australia and Royal Flying Doctor Service has welcomed the findings of a Senate Committee’s Inquiry into Accessibility and Quality of Mental Health Services in Rural and Remote Australia. The three organisations backed the Inquiry’s recommendation to develop a national rural and remote mental health strategy.
The Inquiry proposed a strategy which would address the low rates of access to services, workforce shortages, the high rates of suicide, cultural challenges and the social determinants of health and mental health in rural and remote areas.
“Government, Opposition, and Cross Bench Senators have together recommended urgent action on mental health in the bush,” National Rural Health Alliance CEO, Mark Diamond, said.
“The mental health and wellbeing of people in rural and remote areas is a high priority issue for all Australians – rural and remote areas are a major economic and social generator in Australia and it is simply wrong that people in rural and remote locations are denied access to vital services such as mental health.”
“Of particular concern is the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, children and adolescents, older people and communities experiencing social and environmental hardships.”
Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia CEO, Dr Martin Laverty, said: “Government and community awareness of the mental health needs of remote and rural Australia has been building. In 2019, with Commonwealth Government support, the RFDS will expand its mental health services across remote Australia.
“Yet the Inquiry findings make it clear there is more to be done. We need to invest to build up mental health literacy of all Australians, but this need is even more great in the bush.”
The report also calls for a focus on Indigenous mental health, the closer involvement of the Commonwealth’s Primary Health Networks in co-ordinating services on the ground and closer engagement with learning institutions and mental health providers to deliver well-planned services through a well-trained workforce.
“This latest inquiry supports a number of previous inquiries and reports that make the case for action on prevention, early intervention and treatment of mental health issues. The collaborative nature of this cross-party Senate Committee report and the recommendations give hope for a unified way forward in tackling these longstanding challenges,” Mental Health Australia CEO, Frank Quinlan, said.
“Both Government and Opposition can now pledge to implement the Inquiry findings in a bipartisan manner in the 2019 year with the support of the other political parties, those developing and delivering mental health programs and services, and those communities in remote and rural Australia that are most affected.”
Allan Yates NRHA 0421 150 229
Lana Mitchell RFDS 0401 946 282
Lachlan Searle \MHA 0488 076 088