Mapping Mental Health Care research highlights rural and remote barriers to services

Published 10 October 2023

On World Mental Health Day, Mental Health Australia and the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM) at the University of Canberra have released the findings of their Mapping Mental Health Care research. 

AHPA is supportive of the calls for development and implementation of a multi-year mental health reform roadmap. It is critical that people in Australia can get support for their mental health early, and AHPA agrees with Mental Health Australia that people should be able to access appropriate support, regardless of income or postcode. 

The research shows a clear pattern of lower use of Medicare-subsidised mental health services in regional and remote areas, despite the higher rates of psychological distress and mental health conditions experienced compared to major cities. 

These inequities reflect workforce distribution challenges and financial barriers to accessing mental health care. 

Mapping Mental Health Care presents some of the first public data on use of Primary Health Network (PHN) commissioned mental health services by region. These services are an important way of addressing service gaps and meeting local needs across the country, but only around 0.3 per cent to 1.6 per cent of the population in each region access these services. 

Further work is required to improve regional planning and commissioning of services and ensure transparency and accountability in outcomes.