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