* World Mental Health Day highlights the need for rural people with mental illness to seek help
* Rural people have higher rates of suicide and poor health
* Fewer mental health services in rural areas
* People have difficulties accessing specialist rural services due to cost and distance
Three Rivers University Department of Rural Health (UDRH) at Charles Sturt University (CSU) helped raise awareness of mental health by being a part of the official Guinness World Record-breaking attempt in Wagga Wagga on Wednesday 10 October.
As part of World Mental Health Day more than 1,200 people wearing high-visibility vests gathered in one place to help raise awareness about mental health.
The event organized by Mental Health Australia was part of their ‘Do You See What I See?’ campaign which encourages people to make a #MentalHealthPromise and shed a more positive light on mental health in a bid to reduce stigma for the one in five Australians who are affected by mental illness annually.
Rates of mental illness in rural communities are actually similar to those in metropolitan areas.
However rural people have higher rates of suicide and poor health, and about 70 per cent of rural people with mental health problems do not seek any treatment.
Why do so many rural people not seek treatment?
Firstly, there is a lack of mental health services in rural areas.
Secondly, people have difficulties accessing specialist rural services due to cost (like lower rates of bulk-billing in rural areas) and travel distance.
And thirdly, stigma is a reason people may not seek help. This is especially the case in smaller communities where individuals are more visible and confidentiality may be less certain. Added to this is a culture of stoicism and self-reliance in rural areas.
The care and responsibility for mental health does not rest solely with mental health professionals.
All health professionals have a role to play in identifying, referring to and supporting appropriate mental health treatment; and this is heightened in rural areas. Three Rivers UDRH is aiming to support improved rural health outcomes through our work targeting improved recruitment and retention of health professionals in rural areas.
While the official record was not broken, awareness and support for rural mental health issues was certainly raised. To find out more about the Guinness World Record attempt go to www.1010.org.au/wagga
Three Rivers University Department of Rural Health is a department of Charles Sturt University and is part of a consortium partnership with The University of New South Wales, Western Sydney University and Notre Dame University. Charles Sturt University and its consortium partners acknowledge the financial support provided by the Australian Government Department of Health through its Rural Health Multidisciplinary Training Program in the establishment of the Three Rivers University Department of Rural Health.
To find out more about Three Rivers UDRH go to https://science.csu.edu.au/UDRH