Suggestions from the Geraldton community to improve rural mental health services would be made a reality under the Australian Greens rural mental health policy that was announced last Wednesday.
Australian Greens spokesperson on mental health, Senator Penny Wright, visited Geraldton in June last year as part of a nation-wide tour to ask mental health care consumers, carers and providers how to build a healthier and stronger rural Australia.
“The last thing people in the bush need is another policy solution being drawn up by people with no experience living in rural and regional areas,” Senator Wright said.
“I wanted to make sure the Australian Greens policy was developed by people in country areas for their own communities.
“When I came to Geraldton, I met with a number of local health carer services and the three most important things they told me were the need for a strong community focus, help to attract and retain the best staff, and tackling stigma.
“We listened, and these policies are now at the centre of what the Australian Greens are taking to the election, including $20 million a year for community wellbeing centres, $15m for staff training and a $12.6m campaign to address stigma.”
Across Australia, one in five people will experience a mental health problem in any given year. Although 30 per cent of people live in rural areas, only 10 per cent of psychiatrists practise outside the major cities.
“Years of under-investment in rural mental health has cost lives,” Senator Wright said.
“Rural Australians face unique challenges which affect their mental health, including drought and other natural disasters, isolation, economic changes and poor access to health services.
“We will address the disparity between city and country services by backing innovative, community-based programs so everyone living in rural areas like Geraldton can get the care they need.”
The Australian Greens’ rural mental health package has been costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office at $552.6m over three years.