Mental Health a “Universal Challenge” for Australia
An interview with Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt, has illuminated the vital need for mental health services for rural Australian communities. Interviewer Kim Landers discusses how the rate of suicide is 40% higher in rural cities, and what steps the government is taking to address this concern. The interview can be listened to at the ABC’s website.
Mental health problems are experienced by millions of Australians
As Hunt states, at least 4 million Australians who struggle with mental health annually. This is a problem especially for rural communities, which have limited access to health services and often have low socioeconomic status. For this reason, Hunt emphasises the need for these services to be widely accessible through establishing new Headspaces across Australia. Another initiative called Telehealth is designed to bring the psychologist to the patient with video-conferencing. This allows health professionals to provide their much-needed services without forcing patients to travel long distances that they might not be capable of, financially or physically.
Mental health in rural Australia
The Department of Health is currently discussing a reform to introduce additional medical professionals in rural workplaces. Specifically, Hunt mentions that the board is looking at bringing more medical practitioners into bush areas and facilitating their services.
In addition, a recent change in policy allows individuals to purchase codeine products with a prescription. The change comes about from the global opioid crisis with many people losing their lives to addiction. With such an immediate need, the Department of Health is working with the Rural Doctor’s Associate of Australia, the Faculty of Pain Medicine, the College of GPs and the AMA to provide alternative medication. There are solutions in the progress for those in isolated areas who cannot afford to regularly visit a GP to update their prescription, or are unable to attend specialised pain clinics.
Services for youth mental health
As Health Minister, Hunt is dedicated towards funding programs that aid young people’s mental health. This is a problem that is disturbingly common in young people, as we have discussed on the blog previously. Hunt suggests that these issues should be addressed alongside substance abuse, which is an major concern for Australians.
Overall, it is reassuring to know that the Department of Health is dedicated to providing mental health services for more Australians across the country. But we can always do more: becoming a Mental Health First Aider is the first step towards creating positive change. Empower yourself and enroll in Mental Health First Aid today.