Graphic: RFDS Aircraft

Flying Doctor marks 25 years of mental health delivery for Queenslanders

Date published

28 Jun 2021

This year marks 25 years of mental health service delivery by the Royal Flying Doctor Service (Queensland Section) (RFDS) for people living in regional, rural and remote Queensland.

The initial delivery of mental health services by the RFDS in Queensland followed a Commonwealth-funded feasibility study to explore several projects of national significance.

Once endorsed, the service was first delivered in 1996 by one clinical psychologist, Robert Williams.

Today, mental health services have become a mainstay for the RFDS with more than 12,000 mental health consultations delivered in rural and remote Queensland each year.

RFDS (Queensland Section) Chief Executive Officer Meredith Staib said the RFDS has expanded its mental health workforce over recent years to help meet demand.

More than 30 staff are now employed to facilitate the current suite of mental health services.

“The RFDS is always looking at ways to broaden our scope of healthcare delivery for the people of Queensland. The growth of our mental health program over the past 25 years is testament to our commitment to deliver world-class healthcare to people regardless of where they live,” Ms Staib said.

“These services are now delivered through four main state and federally-funded programs, including the Central West Mental Health and Wellbeing Service, Far North Mental Health and Wellbeing Service, Outback Mental Health and headspace Cairns.

“Our mental health staff are highly qualified and make up a true multi-disciplinary team consisting of psychologists, social workers, occupational therapists and mental health nurses.”

RFDS mental health staff work with general practitioners and other service providers to deliver a comprehensive range of services, from-low intensity interventions through to more complex psychological therapies for people presenting with mild to moderate mental health concerns.

RFDS (Queensland Section) Outback Mental Health Clinical Lead, Dr Tim Driscoll, said the number of people seeking help in recent years had grown as stigmas around mental health, particularly for men, continued to dissipate.

“One of the biggest changes we’ve witnessed over the past 25 years is the readiness for people to acknowledge mental health concerns and actively do something to address them,” Dr Driscoll said.

“We’ve seen a lot of high-profile people such as celebrities and sports stars openly discuss their mental health concerns, and this has helped open up a much broader public discussion on the issue.

“Nowadays, men in particular are more aware of and open to discussing the real effects of depression and anxiety, which is a massive shift from 25 years ago when it seemed to be more commonplace to just grin and bear it.”