Date published

14 Sep 2023

RFDS Board member Ivan Frkovic shares the importance of staying connected and having a conversation this R U OK? Day.

Each year we lose nearly 800 Queenslanders to suicide.

This devastating statistic is one of the many reasons the Royal Flying Doctor Service (Queensland Section) (RFDS) offers vital Mental Health and Wellbeing Services to those living in rural and remote communities where accessing help can be challenging.

RFDS’s newest Board Member, Ivan Frkovic, has recently been reappointed as the Queensland Mental Health Commissioner for the next three years and brings more than 30 years of experience to the organisation.

After working in the public and non-government sectors, on the frontline and within funding and policy, he eagerly accepted the opportunity to join the RFDS Board to share his passion for improving and expanding mental health services in rural and remote Queensland.

Ivan Frkovic

“I see the RFDS as one of those critical services which is unique,” Ivan said.

“Its model of service delivery can play a really important role in mental health because it is consistent, reliable, trusted and has the ability to reach people in peak times of need through its aeromedical services.

“Brands can come and go, but the RFDS has been around for nearly 100 years, and you can see how much it is engrained into the fabric of rural communities.”

The RFDS delivers more than 11,800 consultations in Queensland each year conducted by headspace Cairns and RFDS mental health clinicians in areas as remote as Lockhart River in Cape York and all the way to Camooweal on the Northern Territory border.

R U OK event

“It’s important to ensure people have access to services in the community where they can access early support and treatment, have access to virtual health to complement the face-to-face interactions and have assistance to travel to services in the larger regional locations to meet their need,” Ivan said.

“It’s all about providing services to people early before they become acutely unwell – that’s the critical aspect.

“This is where the RFDS can play an important role in working with communities.”

Data suggests farmers, the elderly, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are at a higher risk of suicide and self-harm, with 75% of all suicides being men.

This is why each year the RFDS strongly supports R U OK? Day to empower those to reach out to others and start a simple and potentially life-saving conversation.

“You think about those living in the city, a lot of us don’t even know who our neighbour is,” Ivan said.

“That connection isn’t there, and for those living remotely, that connection is their major source of support.”

team at R U OK Day event

While there is a common perception that men don’t ask for support, research suggests it's more about where men go for support which is where events like R U OK? Day can provide that vital first step to supporting people in need.

“R U OK? Day is an opportunity to reach out to people rather than people in distress needing to reach out,” he said.

“People are facing a whole lot of life stressors relating to family problems, financial problems, problems at work - we all experience challenges in our lives, it's all about how we are supported to manage them.

“Starting a conversation is a simple way of showing someone cares and is here to listen.

“You don’t need to be a clinician – it’s just a conversation.”

This week RFDS staff will be starting conversations at various internal R U OK? Day morning tea and BBQ events across the state.

We will also be collaborating with other stakeholders to offer a range of health promotion events at Napranum, Mapoon, Cooktown, Kowanyama, Lockhart River, Weipa and Longreach.  

To find out more about RFDS Mental Health services, in Queensland, visit the RFDS website.

If you have specific mental health concerns, please contact RFDS mental health on (07) 4040 0444 (Far North QLD) or 1300 010 174 (Outback QLD). For crisis healthcare, contact 13 YARN on 13 92 76 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.