Mental Health Services in the Clarence Valley, written by Catherine Porter, Yamba

Access to health services and in this instance a more readily available mental health crisis unit or at least access to a mental health practitioner at the Treelands Drive Community Centre in Yamba. Someone that will be available during the day or on call, a person that is qualified who can be contacted in an emergency. That service must be affordable by all, that is, to be claimable through Medibank so that the less fortunate are able to access the services provided without having to endure the situation knowing they are unable to afford the consultation and ongoing resource availability.

“Mental health problems cause profound suffering and are worthy of attention for that reason alone’. The consequences of not addressing the issues involved in the ongoing high instances of mental health problems in rural Australia, ‘erodes financial and personal resources, and undermines resilience and adaptive capacity in affected families, workplaces and communities’.

According to a statement issued by National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing (NSMHWB) they concluded that residents of rural areas are less likely to seek help from psychiatrists and psychologists than their urban counterparts. It has been suggested that there are various factors contributing to the avoidance of seeking help. This is of particular concern in regards to young rural men and their reluctance to consult their local GP or affiliated medical practitioners, as even if they do recognise there is a problem they are often as not disinclined to admit it. Stigma, privacy and a sense of separateness associated with this group alienates them, consequently they are in most need of the chance to access discretely or through non-confrontational forms, literature and programs on mental health issues. In rural communities even though the distances are often extensive, there is a prevailing sense of communal knowledge therefore the young especially, experiencing difficulties will be reluctant to voice their concerns or suspicion of illness for fear of negative outcomes, physically or physiological in the form of harassment and violence.

When the fear, anxiety, depression take control, the ability to not cope becomes so overwhelming that many resort to suicide and according to the Bureau of Statistics, the most common causes of suicide or attempted suicide as a result of mental health disorders are poisoning, hanging, drowning, firearms, explosives and motor vehicle accidents. It is this degree of desperation that has escaped the notice of family, friends and social services resulting in the premature death of several young men and women in the Clarence Valley in the past couple of years…

Government and the community based models and initiatives endeavouring to work on meaningful outcomes, not only mental health per se but affiliated diseases such as alcohol and drug abuse, has to date eluded whatever government policies enunciated.

In conclusion, working on their own, neither government of local communities can solve the current crisis in mental health. Social, economic and environmental adversity will always be part of life, especially in rural Australia where drought, floods and pestilence to name a few are always just one season away. It will require a concerted effort on the part of all parties involved in securing a future for the young and old alike, a future that can accommodate mental health issues without discriminatory or worse still, exclusion and indifference. A future where lack of funding to provide essential services for those affected is no longer considered a non-essential handout to those Australians most in need.