RFDS flies west for men­tal health care

Western Times - - NEWS - Mar­guerite Cud­dihy Mar­guerite.Cud­dihy@west­ern­starnews.com

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.

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

HELP­ING HAND: Se­nior clin­i­cal coun­sel­lor Cath Walker, drought well-be­ing co-or­di­na­tor Al­lira Power, clin­i­cal coun­sel­lor Ge­orgina Woods and RFDS nurse Claire Iles.

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