Mental Health Service Accessibility


Mental Health Service Accessibility

While mental health is becoming a prominent issue in our modern society with many new service providers entering the market, the reality is that accessibility for those wanting to use these services is a significant issue. Accessibility is hindered by a range of factors including distance, transport, cost and service provider coverage. Accessibility is a significant contributing factor in whether a person who needs assistance with the mental health regardless of severity will actually engage with a service provider which can cause mental health in individuals to degrade or even lead to catastrophic outcomes.

The truth is that for every individual, accessibility concerns are different and can be "inaccessible" to them for one or many reasons. A service provider must consider these concerns and look to bridge these gaps if they hope to provide assistance to those in need. The Federal Governments endeavor to make access more available through funding, such as with changes to Medicare or targeting funding at remote areas but there are restrictions in place that govern these payments. Another factor to consider is the proximity to public transport or whether transport means are available for those who do not own a car. Transport links can be a massive inhibitor to individuals needing help in that this prevents them from reaching service locations. While the range and number of service providers has increased over the years in many areas this still has not completely bridged the distance dilemma. Many cities close regional towns would have service providers but for very many regional areas there is either no local services or limited services available in the area. Sometimes it is necessary for individuals to travel to other locations, including by flight in order to access required mental health services. One factor that can impact on accessibility that is considered but not generally perceived as something that can be impacted on is the issue of public opinion, also known as a stigma, which can affect an individuals perception of whether accessing a service would negatively impact on them. This is especially an issue for those living in regional areas where the population is small and everyone is well known which may prevent an individual visiting or accessing a local service.  This can be the difference between an individual getting the help they need or not being able to obtain that assistance and this may exacerbate any mental health conditions that they may have.

It has been recently highlighted with the extensive droughts through many areas of Australia that mental health services can assist those affected by this scenario. Many of these farmers are located in remote areas where no services are easily accessible and is further impacted by potential unwillingness to seek the help they need. This scenario can have significant impacts on the mental health of farmer and their families as they can be very draining emotionally compounded by financial issues and possible trauma. While some farmers have support of neighbours and friends this may not be sufficient to assist them through these times and accessing mental health services is a very important aid to building resilience and coping strategies that are positive and adaptive. Having a good mental health plan can be a very important aspect of farming when you are at the mercy of the climate and the outcomes of these trying conditions can linger on for months or years and can wear away our resilience quickly. The conditions throughout farming communities can flow on to having lasting impacts on those in the communities that rely on farmers good fortunes and this can also build on mental health outcomes for those that live in these communities.

As technology has improved, so has the ability to impact on these accessibility issues including the use of mobile and fixed internet. With many providers this has allowed services to be provided to battle the issues associated with distance, transport, service provider coverage and public opinion. For many the ability to use video based services, such as skype, has introduced services that can be delivered to individuals without them needing to leave their homes or their own environments. This can also have a positive benefit in making individuals more comfortable with engaging service providers, accessing the services they need and in some cases removing the cost of travel from the equation which can be expensive for those who would have needed to fly. This is not to say that this resolves all the issues relating to mental health accessibility as cost is still a factor even with technology. The reality is that those who struggle financially often haven't got access to devices capable of using the internet or if they do, potentially they may still not be able to use video services. There is also the issue of coverage in remote communities which may still require individuals to travel into areas where this is available. The other factor that is overlooked is age, cultural and religious accessibility with demographics in Australia locked out of using technology from bridging these accessibility issues simply because it is outside their capability or their beliefs.

So essentially, accessibility will remain an issue and technology has not rewarded us with a one size fits all approach to resolving accessibility issues. However, technology has provided us with the tools to reach a larger number of those who are in need and to reduce the issues preventing those who need assistance from being able to receive it. It means as service providers that we should seek to adopt delivery methods that enable assistance rather than just keeping the status quo. It means that we cannot seek to abandon our bricks and mortar building approach of delivering services in person. It means that if we hope to bridge accessibility issues in future that we need to make our delivery options clear to remain inclusive and as accessible as possible. This is why we offer and use technology to assist those who have issues accessing our services in person.

If you are interested in finding out more about what we can do for you then please feel free to visit our main website or contact us. Thank you for your time, for reading our blog post and it would be great if you feel the need to share or like our articles via one of our social media platforms with the @ActsIntuitively tag as applies.

Debbie Webster
Operations Manager

ActsIntuitively
Bunbury, WA
info@actsintuitively.com.au

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Outbound Links:

  1. Parliament Of Australia - Accessibility And Quality Of Mental Health Services In Rural And Remote Australia

  2. Parliament Of Australia - Accessibility And Quality Of Mental Health Services In Rural And Remote Australia (Report)

  3. Australian Government Department Of Health - Better Access To Psychiatrists, Psychologists And General Practitioners Through The MBS (Better Access) Initiative

  4. Australian Government Department Of Health - Improved Access To Mental Health services