Flying Doctor Calls for Action to Halt Suicide Trend - World Mental Health Day 2018

Date published

10 Oct 2018

Suicide rates are at a ten-year high and action is needed. World Mental Health Day has the objective of raising awareness of mental health issues and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health.

This World Mental Health Day is an opportunity to look at the facts and take action: 

  • Suicide is the leading cause of death among people aged 15-44
  • 3,128 people died from intentional self-harm in 2017
  • Suicide rates have risen 9.1% from 2016 to 2017

Suicide is even more problematic in remote areas:

  • Despite the prevalence of mental illness being similar in the bush and city, residents of very remote areas are twice as likely to die from suicide. 
  • People living in remote areas are accessing mental health services at only a sixth of the rate of those in cities.

In the last year the Flying Doctor has seen 24,500 people to provide mental health counselling. The Royal Flying Doctor Service is continually expanding their service based on need and now play an important role in the provision of mental health services to remote and rural Australians experiencing mental disorders.

"We could double or triple that service tomorrow and still not touch the surface," says RFDS CEO Dr Martin Laverty. 

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.

In the most urgent of circumstances the RFDS provides aeromedical retrievals of patients who experience an acute mental health episode and require emergency treatment. It is the view of the Flying Doctor that 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 ten-year high on suicide rates shows that there is a vast amount to do. Poor mental health outcomes in rural and remote Australia are preventable. Accessible, culturally appropriate, evidence-based mental health services are required for all Australians, no matter where they live.

Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) Research Paper - Mental Health in Remote and Rural Communities

ABS Causes of Death, Australia, 2017 

If this article raises matters of concern for you, contact RFDS emergency services in your state here or call Lifeline on 131114 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.