RFDS flies west for mental health

14th June 2017 10:08 AM
Senior Clinical Counsellor Cath Walker, Drought Wellbeing Coordinator Allira Power, Clinical Counsellor Georgina Woods and RFDS nurse Claire Iles HELPING HAND: Senior clinical counsellor Cath Walker, drought well-being co-ordinator Allira Power, clinical counsellor Georgina Woods and RFDS nurse Claire Iles. Contributed

NEW research reveals remote Australians die on average from suicide at twice the rate of city people, yet they are only able to access mental health services at a fifth of the rate of city dwellers.

The Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) research identified farmers and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as among the most at risk of suicide.

RFDS service co-ordinator for drought well-being Allira Power manages a team of mental health practitioners who work in rural areas with people experiencing the difficulties associated with drought.

Ms Power said the research showed there was no difference in common mental health risk factors of family history, stressful events, substance use, or health problems between the city and the bush.

"Access to support services plays a big part and trust is a massive part of the culture in remote areas, but people are quite prepared to talk once trust is built,” she said.

"That doesn't necessarily have to be trust with a clinician, but even just trust with family, friends, neighbours and the community.”

The Flying Doctor's unique situation allows professionals to fly to areas that are otherwise not readily accessed by health care workers.

"We develop strategies to help people deal with mental health issues and deliver services such as workshops, workplace training, primary health care clinics, and field day programs where we go to stations to run physical and mental programs,” Ms Power said.

"For us, it's about providing strategies so people are empowered to monitor and manage their own well-being, and it allows the right skilled people to be in the right place who can identify people who are at a higher risk,” she said.

The research studied a snapshot of 2567 country Australians flown by air from different parts of country Australia for emergency mental health care by the RFDS from July 2013 to June 2016.

Ms Power said the research made the case for more mental health resources in the bush.

"The RFDS is grateful to the Federal Government funding, but we need to continue getting the message out there and delivering it in a range of ways that can be responsive to the community.

"This is about normalising access to mental health support.

" It shouldn't be a scary thing,” Ms Power said.