It’s widely accepted that youth mental health is an important issue, and one of the biggest health issues facing young Australians. But a lot of people aren’t aware that a huge proportion of young Australians are doing it tough in regional areas. We’ve laid out the basic facts to help explain the unique challenges these young people face in getting help.

But first: what’s regional and remote? The ABS calls an area comprising more than 100,000 people a major city. That includes places like Sydney, Newcastle, Geelong, Adelaide and everything in between. Everything else is regional or remote: like Bundaberg, Gympie, Wagga Wagga, Griffith, Geraldton, and tiny towns like Merredin. Now let’s get into some facts.

A third of young Australians live in regional and remote areas

We’re talking huge numbers: one in three young people, in fact. That’s one million young people who are living away from the convenience of city support services, and facing unique issues that call for unique interventions.

Mental health issues are more common outside of cities

Compared to those in major cities, young people living in regional and remote areas show heightened levels of psychological distress. Plus, mood disorders like depression and anxiety are twice as prevalent in remote areas as they are in cities. Young people are doing it really tough in Australian towns.

Suicide rates are twice as high for young men outside of major cities

Devastatingly, the rate of suicide among young men who live outside major cities is almost twice as high as it is for their metro counterparts. Getting young men help sooner is the best chance we have at preventing suicide.

There’s less access to specialised mental health care

Inner regional areas only have 37 per cent of the psychiatrists and 61 per cent of the psychologists that major cities have. That means if a young person decides to get some face-to-face help, they’re going to have fewer choices than their peers in the city.

People outside of cities are less likely to access mental health services

The reduced choice probably has a negative effect on service uptake: for every $1 spent per capita (person) on Medicare mental health services in major cities, just 77c is spent in inner regional areas. That reduces to a miniscule 10c in very remote areas.

It’s harder to get mental health help in regional and remote areas

Waiting lists. Long travel times. Stigma. Social isolation. Imagine waiting six months for a first session with a psychologist, then having to drive two hours (each way), all the while not wanting to talk to anyone about it, and also having literally fewer people to talk about it with. It doesn’t sound easy, does it?

We want to make it easier for young people in regional and remote areas to get help

We don’t want to see so many young people doing it tough, let alone finding it so hard to get help. We’re working on new ways to connect young people with the help they need thanks to support from Future Generation Global.

Right now we’re speaking with young people in regional and remote areas around Australia, including Gympie, Wagga Wagga and Merredin, about what life’s like there and learning how we can design better mental health services for them.

More than 1.58 million people visited ReachOut last year and by 2020 we aim to help a million more. By continuing to co-design ReachOut so it’s relevant to all the young people who use it, we can help even more young people in regional and remote areas.

Want to stay up-to-date with our work in regional Australia? Subscribe to our e-newsletter below.

Need to talk to someone right now?

National 24/7 crisis phone support for young people is available from Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800), Suicide Callback Service (1300 659 467), and Lifeline (13 11 14).

Young people can turn to ReachOut.com from anywhere and at any time for free self-help tools, information, and a peer support forum.

References

AIHW (2017) Rural, Remote and Metropolitan Areas (RRMA) classification, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare: Canberra, available at: http://www.aihw.gov.au/rural-health-rrma-classification/  (accessed 10 May 2017)

Department of Family and Community Services (2013) Youth Snapshot, Department of Family and Community Services: Canberra, available at: http://youth.nsw.gov.au/youth-snapshot/ (accessed 10 May 2017)

Lawrence, D, Johnson, S, Hafekost, J, Boterhoven De Haan, K, Sawyer, M, Ainley, J and Zubrick SR (2015) The Mental Health of Children and Adolescents. Report on the second Australian Child and Adolescent Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing, Department of Health: Canberra

National Rural Health Alliance inc. (2017) Mental Health in Rural and Remote Australia, http://ruralhealth.org.au/sites/default/files/publications/nrha-mental-health-factsheet-2017.pdf (accessed 10 May 2017)

 

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