People suffering from anxiety and depression in rural areas may lose a significant online service soon. The Federal Government is reviewing the mental health sector and is yet to make a decision about funding beyond June for services like MindSpot. MindSpot is Australian’s first free online mental health clinic and it was launched three years ago. It has helped 30,000 people and is seeing 300 to 400 new people each week, half of them from areas where there are no face-to-face mental health services. Registered nurse Angela Govan based in Townsville, Queensland, was suffering from anxiety and depression when she went online to look for help. Support organisation BeyondBlue referred Ms Govan to MindSpot and after she filled out an online form someone called her within two hours. “I’m a single mum with three teenage boys, one of whom has quite severe disabilities.” She said face-to-face support was available in her area but she worked for the service and was not comfortable talking about her situation with people she saw daily.
MindSpot director Professor Nick Titov is based at Macquarie University in Sydney. He said the $16 million provided by the Federal Government was running out and services would be wound back in two to three weeks. As with a lot of other mental health services…we’re waiting with bated breath to hear from the Government about future funding.” The Government is not saying yet what it will fund beyond June. For Angela Govan having access to a therapist was a lifeline. “The counsellor was fantastic…I couldn’t have gotten through the course without that contact,” she said. “It made a huge difference and I now have the skills to keep that anxiety under control.” Ms Govan travels to remote communities as part of her role as a nurse and she said MindSpot was very important. “Those people who are away from those city areas have got limited access to resources so to lose anything…it can have huge consequences on people’s lives,” she said. In a statement the Department of Health said it was “currently finalising immediate funding arrangements as per its commitment to give mental health organisations certainty as soon as possible”.
This article first appeared ABC Rural, 20 March, 2015.