One Life Suicide Prevention Strategy speaker Glenn Mitchell said more facilities were needed to address mental illness across the Wheatbelt.
‘I’ve been to about 65 Wheatbelt country towns and there are very limited facilities and resources in the Wheatbelt,’ the sports broadcaster and writer said.
‘Anyone in Perth metro would be 15 minutes at the most from mental health support, while in country areas you do not have that.’
Speaking of the proposal for a men’s respite retreat in Chittering, Mr Mitchell said it would benefit only the immediate region.
‘A facility like this will allow men to mix with people who are there under a common cause, but a facility in Chittering won’t benefit people in Hyden,’ he said. Wheatbelt GP Network contract manager Kat I’Anson said although there was a range of primary mental health care services in rural WA, more services were needed.
‘We are based in Northam but run outreach services with counsellors, psychologists and social workers who visit Toodyay, York, Gingin, Moora and Merredin via GP referral, based on need,’ she said.
‘The further out of Northam you go, the greater the need for mental health services is.
‘We are the only sub-acute mental health service in the Wheatbelt.
‘In Northam there are private psychologists but further out it’s not possible in Bruce Rock, Southern Cross, Narembeen ” there are no private providers that way.
Mr Mitchell said suicide rates being higher in rural WA than in Perth metropolitan area, further highlighted the growing demand for mental health services.
‘In farming and rural areas, people are doing it incredibly hard,’ Mr Mitchell said.
‘Men particularly find it difficult to talk about the issues they are facing and they find it hard to sustain the farms.
‘A lot of the time that will lead to a mental health issue. It doesn’t help the men who are suffering and some have to come to Perth to seek the right help.
‘There’s truly a great shortage of support out in rural WA.’
Wheatbelt Mental Health Service acting manager Jamie Robson said good mental health treatment started with community awareness.
‘It’s vitally important to de-stigmatise mental health from people seeing it as a sign of weakness to being just an illness or an issue that needs to be dealt with,’ he said. ‘We are regional and provide services from Wundowie to Southern Cross and Jurien Bay to Corrigin.
‘There are challenges that are caused by the isolation and distance, but it’s about being flexible and it’s about the community being involved.’