The Royal Flying Doctor Service is calling for action to curb the trend of growing suicide rates, amid concerns a lack of service delivery is aggravating the prevalence of mental illness in the bush.
In a research paper released yesterday to coincide with World Mental Health Day, the RFDS said despite the prevalence of mental illness being similar in the bush and city, residents of very remote areas were twice as likely to die from suicide.
Figures showed people living in remote areas were accessing mental health services at only a sixth of the rate of those in cities.
RFDS chief executive Martin Laverty said the service was continually expanding based on need and now played an important role in the provision of mental health services to remote and rural Australians.
“We could double or triple that service tomorrow and still not touch the surface,” he said.
“There’s no difference in prevalence of mental illness between city and bush, yet Flying Doctor research reveals dramatic differences in how sick people become.
“Poor service access, distance, cost and continued reluctance to seek help all contribute to higher mental illness acuity.”
He said in the most urgent cases, the RFDS provided aeromedical retrievals of patients who experienced an acute mental health episode. However, the service felt many of these emergency retrievals could be avoided if more appropriate and comprehensive mental health services were available in remote and rural areas.
“As a result of funding this year from the Commonwealth, the RFDS is expanding mental health services across the country; however, the 10-year high on suicide rates shows that there is a vast amount to do … accessible, culturally appropriate, evidence-based mental health services are required for all Australians, no matter where they live.”