Coun­try cries out for help

The Western Star - - Rural Weekly - An­[email protected]­ral­weekly.com.au AN­DREA DAVY

MOST peo­ple ac­cess­ing Call to Mind’s tele-men­tal-health ser­vice have “mod­er­ate” to “se­vere” con­cerns.

Call to Mind di­rec­tor Dr Dave Car­mody was heart­ened that these peo­ple – from ru­ral and re­mote ar­eas across Aus­tralia – were get­ting the treat­ment they needed.

How­ever, he also stressed with­out Call to Mind their needs would have gone un­met.

“It proves our ser­vice, and ser­vices like ours, are fill­ing an im­por­tant need,” he said.

“We mea­sure the sever­ity of the pre­sen­ta­tion on what’s called a K10 scale. When peo­ple are re­ferred to us the av­er­age score on the K10 is be­tween 33 to 34, that’s putting them in the mod­er­ate to se­vere cat­e­gory.

“So we are see­ing peo­ple with much more se­vere pre­sen­ta­tions that are not re­ceiv­ing care in other ways… it’s fill­ing a very im­por­tant need in those com­mu­ni­ties.”

About 12 months ago, Dr Car­mody and Dr Ben Chia launched Call to Mind, prompted by the ini­tial find­ings of the se­nate in­quiry into ru­ral and re­mote men­tal health ser­vices, which in­di­cated the tyranny of dis­tance and lack of help was leav­ing peo­ple un­sup­ported.

Call to Mind op­er­ates off the back of GP re­fer­rals and is 100 per cent bulk billed.

“We have no­ticed cen­tral and north Queens­land, north­ern and north­west NSW, eastern Vic­to­ria and north­ern Tas­ma­nia are the ar­eas where we are get­ting a lot of up­take,” he said.

Dr Car­mody ac­knowl­edged many of those ar­eas had been hit with nat­u­ral dis­as­ters.

“A lot of the fund­ing around men­tal health has been off the back of ar­eas in the coun­try that have been af­fected by drought, as well as flood­ing,” he said.

“What we are ac­tu­ally see­ing is that it’s not just peo­ple di­rectly af­fected by that – when these things are go­ing on it puts the whole ru­ral com­mu­nity un­der stress.

“There is a huge un­met need of peo­ple in ru­ral and re­gional ar­eas for men­tal health ser­vices.

“I think when peo­ple see the ads (for men­tal health), you would ex­pect it to be a farmer who is di­rectly af­fected by drought… but every­one is af­fected.”

At the mo­ment there are 18 psy­chi­a­trists and four psy­chol­o­gists work­ing at Call to Mind.

Orig­i­nally Mr Car­mody ex­pected more younger peo­ple to ac­cess the ser­vices, as they would be more com­fort­able with the video-chat tech­nol­ogy, but so far there has been a mix of ages.

He said more women than men were seek­ing help.

“I think that’s re­flec­tive of that broader trend in our cul­ture,” he said.

“Hope­fully there is less stigma than in small com­mu­ni­ties. When every­one knows every­one, it may be eas­ier to see some­one out­side of the com­mu­nity.

“If we can re­duce the lit­tle hur­dles and bar­ri­ers, hope­fully it en­cour­ages peo­ple to do more.”

Dr Car­mody de­scribed GPs as the “back­bone” of men­tal health treat­ment.

“If any­one thinks they need help, you should chat to your GP. That will start the con­ver­sa­tion about what help is avail­able.”

If you or any­one you know needs help, call LifeLine on 13 11 14.

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO: ISTOCK

Call to Mind di­rec­tor Dave Car­mody. NA­TURE’S IM­PACTS: Tough sea­sons cre­ate stress for en­tire ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties, not just farm­ers.

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