Country suicide risk double

SUICIDE PREVENTION: Hans Van Ohle has battled depression and is now part of the Far West Suicide Prevention Network.
SUICIDE PREVENTION: Hans Van Ohle has battled depression and is now part of the Far West Suicide Prevention Network.

Farmers and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are among the most at risk of suicide and among the least able to access mental health services, according to Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) research.

The research, compiled in the RFDS Mental health in remote and rural communities report, revealed remote Australians died on average from suicide at twice the rate of city people yet could only access mental health services at a fifth of the rate.

RFDS chief executive officer Martin Laverty said one in five Australians experienced a mental disorder each year. 

“In remote Australia, that means 960,000 each year deal with their mental health yet country people can’t access the same services as people in the city.”

The research showed there was no difference in common risk factors like family history, stressful events, substance use and health issues but country residents risked exacerbated mental illness due to insufficient early intervention and prevention services.

The research studied 2567 country Australians flown for emergency mental health care from July 2013 to June 2016. Schizophrenic psychosis, depressive disorders and drug psychosis were the main reasons for transfers and 61 per cent of those transferred were male. 

Hans Van Ohle of the Far West Suicide Prevention Network said there were a number of factors involved with depression but there was still a stigma attached and some people did not express how they were feeling.

He also said those closest to people who were struggling were important.

“A lot comes down to your network of people, your family and friends – they are usually the first port of call as they would know if you are struggling,” he said.

“It is important to to educate people into being aware of how to community with somebody who is struggling, to be a soundboard for those people.”

Tumby Bay doctor Graham Fleming, a member of the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine, said rural men often failed to take preventative health measures and had high rates of alcohol dependence and the situation was compounded by shortages in the rural medical workforce.

“We need a healthy lifestyle and to respond early to signs that things are not right.”

If this story has raised any issues for you or someone you know contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue.org.au.