The RFDS plays an important role in the provision of services to remote and rural Australians experiencing mental disorders and has consequently provided a submission to the senate inquiry into mental health.
Timely and accessible health care is crucial for remote and rural Australians experiencing mental disorders. The RFDS delivers mental health and social and emotional wellbeing (SEWB) services through our primary health programs in addition to specialist mental health programs.
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 RFDS that many of these emergency retrievals could be avoided if more appropriate and comprehensive mental health services were available in remote and rural areas.
Research shows that health services, particularly mental health services are needed now more than ever in the bush. There are persistent health workforce shortages and ongoing challenges in accessing comprehensive health services that lead to poorer health outcomes for those living in remote and rural areas of Australia. People living in remote areas are accessing mental health services at only a sixth of the rate of those in cities. 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.
As a result of recent budget decisions of the Commonwealth, the RFDS is in the process of expanding mental health services. However, evidence makes it clear there will still not be sufficient mental health services in rural and remote Australia, and it is the responsibility of all governments to urgently address this.
See inquiry submissions here