Issues: The challenge to increase community access to mental health services was addressed by (i) initiatives to address specific access barriers, (ii) supporting recruitment and retention of rural mental health staff, (iii) developing the skills of the existing workforce and (iv) developing innovative approaches to student placements. Strategies to promote awareness of mental health issues included workshops in rural and remote communities, specific suicide prevention initiatives and targeted initiatives to support the mental health needs of Indigenous Australians. The need for collaboration between the widely dispersed MHAs was identified as important to bridge the rural divide, to promote project cohesiveness and ensure new ideas in an emerging setting are readily shared and to provide professional support for one another as mental health academics are often isolated from academic colleagues with similar mental health interests.
Lessons learned: The MHA project suggests that an integrated approach can be taken to address the common difficulties of community awareness raising of mental health issues, increasing access to mental health services, workforce recruitment and retention (access), and skill development of existing health professionals (access and awareness). To address the specific needs and circumstances of their community, MHAs have customised their activities. As in other rural initiatives, one size was found not to fit all. The triad of flexibility, diversity and connectedness (both to local community and other MHAs) describes the response identified as appropriate by the MHAs. The breadth of the MHA role to provide university sponsored educational activities outside traditional student teaching meant that the broader health workforce benefited from access to mental health training that would not otherwise have occurred. Provision of these additional educational opportunities addressed not only the need for increased education regarding mental health but also reduced the barriers commonly faced by rural health professionals in accessing quality professional development.
|Number of pages||11|
|Journal||Rural and Remote Health|
|Publication status||Published - 22 Sept 2016|
- mental health
- mental health access
- mental health professional training