Regional mental health

Regional communities in Western Australia experience significant life challenges and pressures, coupled with increased difficulties in accessing support for mental health and other issues.  Research suggests there are gaps in the supports available that address a holistic range of needs like social connections, financial security, and physical wellbeing.

Treating mental health in isolation, addressing symptoms only, and only providing crisis care without early intervention is not seen as effective — especially in communities with high levels of stigma and low mental health literacy.

Regional and remote communities experience high distress, low wellbeing, and ongoing unmet mental health needs, especially in young populations. There is also widespread concern about the mental health of young people and a lack of options for them to get the support they need early in life.  A one-size-fits-all does not work for regional communities and there are no specific solutions.

WAAMH believes all Western Australians should have access to high quality mental health services that are co-designed, context-driven, responsive, and accessible.

WAAMH will continue advocating for improvements to our mental health system to help create a healthy and thriving community.

Project: Improving regional and remote mental health, WAAMH & UWA’s Centre for Social Impact

In 2021, WAAMH undertook a self-funded project to understand the need for community mental health supports in rural and remote Western Australia and to determine the best way to strengthen supports. WAAMH worked with the Centre for Social Impact at the University of Western Australia to undertake research, analyse the information, draft a report and develop a strategy for dissemination and implementation of the findings.

Extensive consultation along with site visits was undertaken with local communities across the South West, Wheatbelt and Mid-West. Priority was given to engaging smaller remote towns and communities located away from the main regional centres. ore than 320 people participated in workshops, public events, structured interviews and meetings across the three regions, and nearly 500 people completed the survey.

The report identified that regional communities face significant life challenges and limited access to support for mental health and other needs. These communities lack comprehensive support systems that encompass social connections, financial security, and physical well-being. Focusing solely on treating mental health in isolation and providing crisis care without early intervention is ineffective, especially in areas with high stigma and low mental health literacy.

Indicators show high distress and unmet mental health needs, particularly among young people, with limited early-life support options. Generic solutions do not work for regional communities, necessitating context-specific approaches.

The report outlines four key priorities for action based on community input:

  • Address social determinants as key drivers of poor mental health.
  • Promote mental health literacy and help-seeking behavior locally.
  • Enhance the accessibility of clinical and non-clinical supports.
  • Engage local leadership for relevant and sustainable support.

The report calls for a review of funding models for mental health services in rural areas, recommending alternative approaches to ensure effective support for these communities.

Relevant documents