More services key to better health outcomes

Recently released research from the Royal Flying Doctor Service is the latest data to shine a light on mental illness rates in remote and rural communities, and the gaps in services in regional areas.

The report shows country people die of suicide at twice the rate of city people.

It is a shocking statistic for regional communities to live with but for the many country families affected by suicide – and there are far too many – it will not come as much of a surprise.

Neither will the fact that country people can only access mental health services at about a fifth the rate of city people.

This is not to take away from the good work done by the people providing the services that are available in regional areas and Eyre Peninsula is probably better placed than many more remote centres when it comes to mental health services but there is still much more that needs to be done to reach out to those at risk.

As a community, Eyre Peninsula people are getting better at talking about mental health and suicide but these topics are often talked about in a general way and the specifics are still discussed quietly, behind closed doors with family, close friends and health professionals.

Tumby Bay GP Graham Fleming has long been an advocate for mental health issues, establishing a rural suicide prevention and mental health program in the late 1980s at a time when there were no protocols or literature regarding suicide prevention in rural communities and there was no interest or resources from government or academia to deal with the problem.

Today there is a lot more recognition and awareness of mental health issues, at government and community levels, but services are still limited and even if the services are available it is just as hard as it ever was for someone to reach out for the help they need.

During Men’s Health Week this week Dr Fleming is encouraging men to reach out to health professionals to discuss any physical or mental health issues, and for a wider discussion about mental health and suicide prevention strategies.

There are never any simple solutions when it comes to mental illness but if lower rates of access to mental health services are contributing to higher rates of suicide, surely providing more services is a good start.

  • If you need support contact your local GP or Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit beyondblue.org.au.