doctor outback mental health tim driscoll

Graphic: doctor outback mental health tim driscoll

The accidental psychologist

Date published

13 Aug 2021

For some, working in healthcare is a lifelong dream. For Dr Tim Driscoll it was an accident.

He was thrust into the mental health sector at 19 when looking for a job.

“I’d been working on a cattle farm in the United States, then I went to Ireland and there was a job going in a psychiatric hospital as a nurses aid,” Tim said.  

There was stiff competition. Neither applicant had qualifications. 

“The job was between a butcher and someone who chased cows, so they went for me,” he laughed. 

Growing up on a cattle station in Western Australia, Tim was familiar with life in remote areas and the barriers that come with living on the land.  

After falling in love with the unlikely role in Ireland, Dr Driscoll returned to Australia and studied psychology.

tim driscoll outback mental health service

Mental health rates are roughly the same wherever you live around Australia. 

Whether you’re in the middle of city or in the middle of the outback, mental health problems effect around one in five people.  

But there is a difference between the two lifestyles. 

“People do wait to get a lot worse before they get treatment [in rural Queensland],” said Tim. 

“It’s just that people aren’t necessarily getting the same service, so they go deeper into the hole before they get help.” 

The gap between service is something Dr Driscoll is passionate about closing.  

In his role as the clinical lead for outback mental health with the Royal Flying Doctor Service (Queensland Section) (RFDS) he brings services to those who are out of reach from traditional clinics. 

The RFDS (Queensland Section) has passed 25 years of providing mental health services to rural communities in 2021. 

In fact, 12,156 consultations were delivered by RFDS mental health clinicians across Queensland in the 2020-21 financial year. 

Tim’s seen programs expand dramatically during his time with the Service.  

“When we first put on our mental health clinics, we were shocked at just how quickly those services were accessed by the community.  

“We were thinking we’d have some quiet clinics, but they filled up really, really quickly.” 

A major shift is happening. 

“We’ve seen some quite prominent people such as celebrities and sports people talking about their mental health concerns and that’s really opened up the conversation within the community,” Tim said. 

“If people are open to talking about it, then we can get people help.”  

“It’s a common thing but a lot of it still goes untreated. So, the more we have that conversation, the more we’re going to be able to deliver our service and really improve people’s lives,” he said. 

With a broadening conversation and better access to care through the RFDS (Queensland Section), Tim’s hopeful Queenslanders in the furthest corners of the state can access the help they need to improve their mental health.