Drought-affected communities to receive additional GP mental health support

  • Regional and rural Australians will be able to talk to their GP about their mental health thanks to a Medicare boost announced today by the Federal Minister for Health.
  • Many drought affected Australians live significant distances away from the next town making access to a GP difficult and expensive.
  • Mental health continues to be one of the main issues GPs manage every day, and is the number one area of concern for rural GPs.

Regional and rural Australians living through one of the toughest droughts in Australia’s history will be able to pick up the phone and talk to their GP about their mental health under a new arrangement announced by the Australian Government.

President of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), Dr Harry Nespolon has welcomed today’s announcement by the Federal Minister for Health Greg Hunt, which will increase the availability of mental health services in the bush.

“This is an incredibly hard time for those affected by the drought, and the mental health of people in these communities is an area of key concern at this time,” Dr Nespolon said.

“Mental health is a very prevalent issue in Australia, just because we cannot see it when we walk down the street does not mean it isn’t there.

“Unsurprisingly, mental health issues can become significantly worse during a drought.

“When working with a community in crisis, mental health needs to be a priority to ensure that long term conditions are not formed.

“Today’s announcement is a step in the right direction towards addressing the prevalence of mental health issues in our community.”

RACGP Rural Chair, Dr Ayman Shenouda also congratulated the government, noting that a recent Australian Journal of Rural Health report revealed that a third of rural and remote Australians suffering moderate to high psychological distress don’t think they have a problem, which shows a need for increased mental health education for patients living in rural Australia.

“This announcement by the Australian Government will be a great boost to people living in the bush, and will help to remove the barriers for our patients who need to chat about their mental health,” Dr Shenouda said.

“Allowing a patient to claim a Medicare rebate for a phone call with their GP is an excellent way of making sure that high level healthcare is affordable and accessible to our regional Australians.

“In the bush it can be very hard to get our patients in the door to talk about their mental health, which we know is vital for their overall health.

“If you are in need of support, please make sure to reach out to your GP, who can take the steps needed to support you and manage your condition.”


/Public Release.