The Abbott Government's performance on rural mental health has been overwhelmingly condemned in a new survey of rural mental health workers, consumers and community activists.
The survey, conducted by Australian Greens spokesperson for mental health Senator Penny Wright, revealed widespread dissatisfaction with mental health services in rural and regional areas.
Only five per cent of respondents thought local services were enough to meet local needs and 97 per cent wanted government funding for rural and regional mental health increased.
Asked to rank the Abbott Government's performance on rural mental health to date, almost half of 143 rural mental health workers gave the government the lowest possible score, with 80 per cent giving the Government an unfavourable rating. Mental health consumers and carers were even more critical.
Senator Wright visited rural and regional areas in every state and territory as part of a mental health consultation in 2012 and 2013, creating the first mental health policy written by country people for country people.
She said many people would feel let down by the silence and inaction from the Abbott Government on rural mental health.
"This survey is a rally cry from the bush to the Abbott Government. It's time to wake up and fix rural mental health," Senator Wright said.
"With the rate of suicide so much higher in rural areas, action on mental health is quite literally a matter of life and death."
The survey of 290 rural and regional mental health workers, carers and community activists also found:
- 85% want the Abbott Government to appoint a dedicated Mental Health minister;
- Only 10.5% believed mental health was a priority for their local Member of Parliament; and
- 94% of mental health workers agreed it was hard to attract staff to rural and regional areas.
"My survey revealed the two things people want fixed the most are better community-based care and better access to sub-acute services," Senator Wright said.
"The current rural mental health workforce is under-staffed, under-resourced and under-trained, leaving Australians who live in rural and regional areas without life-saving services and care."