NACCHO Aboriginal Mental Health : Download report “Mental health in remote and rural communities “

 ” The poorer mental health of remote and rural Indigenous Australians is also impacted by the social determinants of Indigenous health, which are well recognised nationally and internationally.

These relate to the loss of language and connection to the land, environmental deprivation, spiritual, emotional and mental disconnectedness, a lack of cultural respect, lack of opportunities for self-determination, poor educational attainment, reduced opportunities for employment, poor housing, and negative interactions with government systems

The relationship of remoteness to health is particularly important for Indigenous Australians, who are overrepresented in remote and rural Australia (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2014a).

The National Mental Health Commission (2014a, p. 19) identified that “the mental health needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are significantly higher than those of other Australians.”

Photo above

“ The women of Inkawenyerre, a small settlement in the Utopia community four hours by road north of Alice Springs, regularly take part in a different kind of mental health therapy, known as ‘narrative therapy.’

Narrative therapy taps into the centuries-old tradition among Aboriginal people of story-telling and expression through art. At the family Urapuntja Clinic, both women and children take part in narrative therapy.

They recreate what is commonly seen on any given evening in an Aboriginal community—people sitting around the fire, relating to one another and telling stories.

The activity is enjoyable for participants with group members often laughing and supporting one another as they tell stories and work on their painting—all while promoting good mental health living practice,”

Lynne Henderson, former RFDS Central Operations mental health clinician.

“People who live in the country get less access to care. And they become sicker,”

To increase the access to care, the RFDS said it needed a massive increase in funding. Country Australians see mental health professionals at only a fifth the rate of those who live in the city,

So there should be a five-fold increase in access to mental health care for country Australians.”

RFDS CEO Martin Laverty see story Part 2 below

Mental health in remote and rural communities

Mental health disorders are not more common in rural and regional Australia than they are in Australia’s cities, according to a new report from the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS), but they are a lot harder to treat.

The report, Mental Health in Remote and Rural Communities, found about one in five remote and rural Australians — 960,000 people — experience mental illness.

Download the report HERE

RN031_Mental_Health_D5

But a combination of lack of access to facilities, social stigma, and cultural barriers present challenges to getting people the help they need.

AHCRA believes that’s something that everyone should be concerned about, with access to care regardless of location.

 

Part 1  Indigenous mental health and suicide

Data from the 2011 Australian Census demonstrated that 669,881 Australians, or 3% of the population, identified as Indigenous (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2013b), and that 142,900 Indigenous Australians, or 21% of the Indigenous population, lived in remote and very remote areas (Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, 2014).

Around 45% of people in very remote Australia (91,600 people), and 16% of people in remote Australia (51,300 people) were Indigenous (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2013b; Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, 2014).

In 2011–2012 around one-third (30%) of Indigenous adults reported high or very high levels of psychological distress—almost three times the rate for non-Indigenous Australians (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2014).

In 2008–2012, in NSW, Queensland (Qld), WA, SA and the NT, there were 347 Indigenous deaths11 from mental health-related conditions (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare,

2015a). Specifically, age-standardised death data demonstrated that Indigenous Australians (49 per 100,000 population) were 1.2 times as likely as non-Indigenous Australians (40 per 100,000 population) to die from mental and behavioural disorders (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2015a). Age-standardised deaths from mental and behavioural disorders increased with increasing age in both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians in 2008–2012.

Very few Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians under the age of 35 years died as result of mental and behavioural disorders in 2008–2012. However, Indigenous Australians aged 35 years or older were more likely to die from mental and behavioural disorders than non-Indigenous

Australians in 2008–2012. Specifically, Indigenous Australians (7.2 per 100,000 population) aged 35–44 years were 5.7 times as likely as non-Indigenous Australians (1.3 per 1200,000 population) to die from mental and behavioural disorders (Australian Institute of Health and

Welfare, 2015a). In 2008–2012, Indigenous Australians (14.7 per 100,000 population) aged 45–54 years were 4.9 times as likely as non-Indigenous Australians (3.0 per 100,000 population) to die from mental and behavioural disorders (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2015a).

In 2008–2012, Indigenous Australians (18.3 per 100,000 population) aged 55–64 years were 2.7 times as likely as non-Indigenous Australians (6.9 per 100,000 population) to die from mental and behavioural disorders (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2015a). In 2008–2012,

Indigenous Australians (91.2 per 100,000 population) aged 65–74 years were 2.9 times as likely

as non-Indigenous Australians (31.3 per 100,000 population) to die from mental and behavioural disorders (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2015a).

Further exploration of death data from mental and behavioural disorders illustrates the significant impact of psychoactive substance use (ICD-10-AM codes F10–F19) on Indigenous mortality (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2015a). In 2008–2012, 29.1% of Indigenous deaths due to mental and behavioural disorders were the result of psychoactive substance use, such as alcohol, opioids, cannabinoids, sedative hypnotics, cocaine, other stimulants such as caffeine, hallucinogens, tobacco, volatile solvents, or multiple drug use. During this period, Indigenous Australians (7.3 per 100,000 populations) were 4.8 times as likely as non-Indigenous Australians to die as a result of psychoactive substance use (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2015a).

Similarly, in 2006–2010, there were 312 Indigenous deaths from mental health-related conditions (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2013a). Indigenous Australians living in NSW, Qld, WA, SA and the NT were 1.5 times as likely as non-Indigenous Australians to die from mental and behavioural disorders in 2006–2010 (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2013a).

11 Deaths from mental and behavioural disorders do not include deaths from intentional self-harm (suicide). Intentional self-harm is coded under ICD-10-AM Chapter 19—Injury, poisoning and certain other consequences of external causes.

Age-standardised death data demonstrated that Indigenous males (49 per 100,000 population) were 1.7 times as likely as non-Indigenous males to die from mental and behavioural disorders. Indigenous females were 1.3 times as likely as non-Indigenous females to die from mental and behavioural disorders (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2013a).

The greater number of deaths from mental and behavioural disorders with age may also represent the impact of conditions associated with ageing, such as dementia. For example, in 2014, Indigenous Australians (50.7 per 100,000 population) in NSW, Qld, SA, WA and the NT were 1.1 times as likely as non-Indigenous Australians (45.3 per 100,000 population) to die from dementia (including Alzheimer disease) (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2016a).

In 2014–2015, Indigenous Australians (28.3 per 1,000 population) were 1.7 times as likely as non-Indigenous Australians (16.3 per 1,000 population) to be hospitalised for mental and behavioural disorders (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2016a).

In 2011–2013, 4.2% of Indigenous hospitalisations were for mental and behavioural disorders (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2015a). Age-standardised data demonstrated that Indigenous Australians (27.7 per 1,000 population) were twice as likely as non-Indigenous Australians (14.2 per 1,000 population) to be hospitalised for mental and behavioural disorders in 2011–2013 (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2015a).

In 2008–2009, Indigenous young people aged 12–24 years (2,535 per 100,000 population) were three times as likely to be hospitalised for mental and behavioural disorders than non-Indigenous young people (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2011).

 

The leading causes of hospitalisation for mental and behavioural disorders amongst Indigenous young people were schizophrenia (306 per 100,000 population), alcohol misuse (348 per 100,000 population) and reactions to severe stress (266 per 100,000 population) (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2011).

A preliminary clinical survey of 170 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in Cape York and the Torres Strait, aged 17–65 years, with a diagnosis of a psychotic disorder, was undertaken to describe the prevalence and characteristics of psychotic disorders in this population (Hunter, Gynther, Anderson, Onnis, Groves, & Nelson, 2011).

Researchers found that: 62% of the sample had a diagnosis of schizophrenia, 24% had substance-related psychoses, 8% had affective psychoses, 3% had organic psychoses and 3% had brief reactive psychoses; Indigenous Australians aged 30–39 years were overrepresented in the psychosis sample compared to their representation in the population (37% of sample versus 29% of population) with slightly lower proportions in the 15–29 years and 40 years and older age groups; almost three-quarters (73%) of the sample were male (versus 51% for the Indigenous population as a whole); Aboriginal males (63% in the sample compared to 46% for the region as a whole) were overrepresented; a higher proportion of males (42%) than females (5%), and Aboriginal (44%) than Torres Strait Islander patients (10%) had a lifetime history of incarceration; comorbid intellectual disability was identified for 27% of patients, with a higher proportion for males compared to females (29% versus 20%) and Aboriginal compared to Torres Strait Islander patients (38% versus 7%); and alcohol misuse (47%) and cannabis use (52%) were believed to have had a major role in the onset of psychosis (Hunter et al., 2011).

In 2015, Indigenous Australians (25.5 deaths per 100,000 population) in Qld, SA, NT, NSW and WA were twice as likely as non-Indigenous Australians (12.5 deaths per 100,000 population) to die from suicide (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2016b). In their spatial analysis of suicide, Cheung et al. (2012) concluded that higher rates of suicide in the NT and in some remote areas could be explained by the large numbers of Indigenous Australians living in these areas, who demonstrate higher levels of suicide compared with the general population.

The poorer mental health of remote and rural Indigenous Australians is also impacted by the social determinants of Indigenous health, which are well recognised nationally and internationally.

These relate to the loss of language and connection to the land, environmental deprivation, spiritual, emotional and mental disconnectedness, a lack of cultural respect, lack of opportunities for self-determination, poor educational attainment, reduced opportunities for employment, poor housing, and negative interactions with government systems

Part 2 Flying Doctors fight barriers to treat mental illness in rural Australia

Source ABC

Like so many in the bush, Brendan Cullen has a lot on his plate.

He manages a 40,000-hectare property south of Broken Hill. There are 8,000 sheep to keep track of. And that’s just a fraction of the number he looked after previously at another station.

A few years ago, the mustering, the maintenance, juggling bills and family — it all caught up to him.

“You just bottle stuff up. And sometimes you can’t find an out,” he said.

“In the bush you have a lot of time by yourself.”

He spent a lot of that time thinking about his problems. But Mr Cullen was lucky.

He heard about a mental health clinic being run by the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) in a nearby community and decided to go along.

“Catching up with one of the mental health nurses gave me the tools to be able to work out how I go about living a day-to-day life,” he said.

“My life’s a hell of a lot easier now than what it used to be.”

Mental health disorders are not more common in rural and regional Australia than they are in Australia’s cities, according to a new report from the RFDS, but they are a lot harder to treat.

The report, Mental Health in Remote and Rural Communities, found about one in five remote and rural Australians — 960,000 people — experience mental illness.

But a combination of lack of access to facilities, social stigma, and cultural barriers present challenges to getting people the help they need.

“People who live in the country get less access to care. And they become sicker,” RFDS CEO Martin Laverty said.

To increase the access to care, the RFDS said it needed a massive increase in funding.

“Country Australians see mental health professionals at only a fifth the rate of those who live in the city,” Mr Laverty said.

“So there should be a five-fold increase in access to mental health care for country Australians.”

The impact of distance and isolation when it comes to treating mental disorders can be seen in suicide rates. In remote Australia, the rate is nearly twice what it is in major metropolitan areas — 19.6 deaths per 100,000 people.

The suicide rate is even greater in very remote communities.

If you or anyone you know needs help:

The RFDS has responded by increasing its mental health outreach. In communities like Menindee, about an hour’s drive from Broken Hill in the far west of New South Wales, a mental health nurse is on call once a fortnight.

“I have needed them in the past. I got down to rock bottom at one stage. Even now I appreciate that support,” Menindee resident Margot Muscat said.

Ms Muscat plays an active role in the remote community. But she has also felt pressure in the past to manage that role, her work, and family commitments.

Mental health counselling has given her a valuable outlet.

“Just to know that I wasn’t alone. And that you don’t have to take the drastic step of suiciding, so to speak,” Ms Muscat said.

Some the RFDS’s mental health counselling is done over the airwaves. From its regional base in Broken Hill, mental health nurse Glynis Thorp counsels patients over the phone. Often calls are simply people checking in.

“It’s critically important…often there might only be two people on the property. So no one to talk to maybe,” she said.

“We might get out to a clinic every fortnight, but we might have follow up phone calls to check how people are going. For myself it’s probably a ratio of four to one.”

The RFDS report reveals every year hundreds of serious mental illness incidents require airplanes to be dispatched to remote areas to fly patients out for treatment.

Over three years from July 2013 the RFDS conducted 2,567 ‘aeromedical retrievals’.

The leading causes for evacuation flights due to mental disorder are

The RFDS also uses airplanes to carry its mental health nurses to very remote areas. On a typical day in Broken Hill, the medical team takes off just after dawn to head to three communities hundreds of kilometres away: Wilcania, White Cliffs and Tilpa.

In the opal mining town of White Cliffs, the mental health nurse sees patients at the local clinic. One is “Jane”, who doesn’t want her full name used.

“Without them, we would really be lost here,” she said.

Jane has been counselled by the RFDS and was recently directed to mental health treatment in Broken Hill. But she’s still reluctant to talk openly in town about the help she’s getting.

“In a small community it’s not wise to talk to other people in town,” she said. “And mental health, it does carry a stigma.”

Back on his station south of Broken Hill, Mr Cullen believes that stigma over mental health is slowly changing in the bush.

“People get wind that someone’s had a mental health problem, people talk now. As opposed to, let’s go back five years even, 10 years. It was a closed book,” he said.

“With these clinics, once upon a time you might have had a dental nurse, a doctor, and the like.

“But now you have a mental health nurse…And these clinics are close by. So you’re able to go to them. They come to you.”

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