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Far West bucks mental health study findings

Monday, 27th May, 2013

By Emily Roberts

Of the people with mental illness in country areas, up to half aren't seeking help, according to a new study, but that does not appear to be the case in this part of the world.

The "Australian rural mental health cohort study" examined more than 2500 people. It suggested that unemployment, disability and social isolation were most likely to lead to mental health problems in the bush.

But a Far West Local Health District spokesman said many people do seek help in this region.

"For example, approximately 100 people each month contact Broken Hill Community Mental Health and Drug and Alcohol team seeking help for themselves or someone else," the spokesman said.

"This doesn't include the people already engaged in treatment or the people who see their GP or another service for mental health treatment."

The spokesman said the Far West, despite its isolation, had excellent services including including Maari Ma, the Royal Flying Doctor and the Far West Local Health District.

"Humans generally need other humans around them, so being isolated can be a concern. Most people need other people to support them and make them feel part of a community.

"That said, there are many types of communities now and the internet has allowed even people living in the most isolated places to stay connected with friends, family and groups of like-minded people."

Nevertheless, the spokesman said, studies indicate that many people don't seek help for various reasons including that they don't realise they need help or don't want it; they feel ashamed;y don't know where to find help; can't access services or; think they should be able to cope on their own.

"Mental health issues can range from psychoses to anxieties and each disorder can have a different trigger," the spokesman said.

"Usually, genetics or stress, or a combination of both, lead to mental illness. Sometimes drugs and alcohol can cause temporary or longer term mental health problems."

He said it was usually best to see a GP in the first instance. The GP could then refer the person, depending on symptoms.

"It could be that someone is more withdrawn or louder than usual, they might be saying lots of things quite quickly, or they may seem confused and take a long time to answer you.

"If someone is acting in a way that's not usual for them, it's best to call a state-wide number 1800 011 522 for advice."

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