Politics Research — 31 July 2015

A South Australian Senator says governments need to do more to offer greater regional mental health services.

The Garvan Research Foundation this week released a report that found regional people are living shorter lives and are more likely to die from some diseases than their city counterparts.

The report also found there was a greater proportion of rural people dealing with mental health problems than in the city.

Greens Senator, Penny Wright, said the report was further proof more mental health funding was needed in regional areas.

“In this arena, unfortunately delay often means lost lives,” she said.

“We can’t afford to delay.

“Thirty per cent of Australians live in rural areas but they are not getting their fair share of services at the moment.”

Garvan researchers collated data from health peak bodies across the country to produce the report.

The report found there were higher mortality rates and lower life expectancy in rural and regional areas.

The report also found there were higher reported rates of high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, alcohol abuse, smoking, and mental health problems, including dementia, outside Australian cities.

Death rates from chronic diseases were higher in rural and regional areas compared to the city.

“It’s a most disturbing report when it reports that people in rural areas are suffering a higher prevalence of mental health problems,” Ms Wright said.

“That didn’t really take me by surprise because I conducted extensive rural mental health consultation a couple of years ago and that was clearly a finding from that.

“But I was particularly concerned to see that the statistic now is that country people are 66 per cent more likely to commit suicide.

“A key influencing factor there is a lack of access to health services.

“That’s really an appalling statistic and it worries me greatly.”

Ms Wright said she wanted the government to create a new ministry with a Mental Health Minister.

She said she was yet to see any gains into tackling regional mental health issues in the three years since she carried out her rural consultation.

“I’m not a pessimistic person but it seems that the years of underinvestment in rural mental health in Australian has continued,” Ms Wright said.

“That’s costing lives right across country Australia.

“In my view, we’ve seen the situation get worse.”

Ms Wright said she wanted the government to fully implement the findings of a 2010 government report into suicide.

The Senator, who will retire once her party finds a replacement, called on politicians across the political divide to advocate for greater regional services.

ABC Rural contacted Health Minister, and MP for the remote New South Wales seat of Farrer, Sussan Ley’s office.

Advisors said Assistant Health Minister and Nationals Senator Fiona Nash oversaw the government’s regional mental health policies.

ABC Rural sent a list of questions to Ms Nash’s media representatives, which are yet to be answered.

Staff said Ms Nash was travelling throughout indigenous communities in the Northern Territory.

This article first appeared on ‘ABC‘ on 30 July 2015.


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