Innovations in remote and rural mental health care

  • Australasian Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health collage of man over farm fields
Alistair Wilkes & Jennifer Bowers
Tunstall Australasia & Australasian Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health

As the future of our national healthcare system is being shaped, it is vital to ensure service delivery and healthcare innovations are not unfairly distributed. Remote and rural health has always trailed behind healthcare in the cities.

One particular area of need is mental health and wellbeing. We are all well aware of the need for mental health services in rural and remote Australia, where life is often subject to unpredictability, economic and financial uncertainty, incessant change, and extreme weather events. These challenges can have a serious impact on the mental health of those affected.

Tunstall Australasia is currently partnering with the Australasian Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health (RRMH) to provide a range of awareness, prevention, early intervention, and support services to people living in remote communities. These culturally-tailored programs include practical workshops designed to destigmatise mental ill-health and deliver information about mental health, wellbeing and suicide prevention. Different programs have been tailored for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, for people working in the mining and resources sector, and for agricultural communities.

Rural minds logo with Acubra hat logoRural Minds is a comprehensive program designed to raise awareness and grow understanding in agricultural communities. Rural Minds includes a train-the-facilitator workshop for community leaders to deliver the mental health and wellbeing workshop within their community.

The Rural Minds workshop combines practical, culturally-relevant information around risk factors, signs and symptoms, prevention tips/techniques, and where and how to get assistance. Including compelling accounts of mental health issues from those involved in the agricultural sector, Rural Minds is tailored particularly for primary producers, their families and those who work and/or live in rural communities.

Deadly Thinking logo with hand print logoDeadly Thinking is a social and emotional wellbeing and suicide prevention program specifically designed for Indigenous communities. Deadly Thinking confronts the core social and mental wellbeing issues faced by young and old alike in a culturally appropriate, accessible, and compelling way.

RRMH delivers a train-the-facilitator workshop for elders and other key community members, in which participants learn to deliver the Deadly Thinking program. By assuming a leadership role, participants greatly extend the scope and sustainability of the program as well as the long-term effectiveness of protective strategies in the community.

People working in mining, resources, and quarrying operations confront a range of challenges to their mental health and emotional wellbeing. Isolation from family and friends, shift work, fly-in fly-out and drive-in drive-out rosters, relationship or financial stresses, misuse of alcohol and drugs, environmental extremes, and dangerous workplaces can and often do contribute to compromised mental health and, in extreme cases, suicide.

Resource Minds logo with hard hat logoResource Minds aims to raise awareness and understanding; helps participants recognise problems in themselves, family and workmates; and encourages everyone to take responsibility for their own mental health, to talk to someone and to seek help early.

One element of the Tunstall Australasia/RRMH partnership is the provision of culturally-trained staff to monitor dedicated phone lines for each program. With their understanding of the content and context of these programs, they are able to provide information, support and referrals. This ensures appropriate responses to peoples’ individual needs.
Into the future, we will look at the capacity for new technologies to meet immediate needs, providing referrals and enabling online counselling.

The most pressing barrier to such innovation is the lack of strong and reliable communication technology. With the rollout of the National Broadband Network, we hope to see a wider distribution of healthcare innovations and perhaps to move towards a more equitable distribution of healthcare across Australia.

For more information about these programs, including workshop costs, visit

Rural & Remote Mental Health logo. Coloured dots in the shape of Australia


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