The vast distances patients must travel to access mental health services is only one of the challenges they face, and other barriers include a hesitancy to access help, apprehensions due to stigma and cultural barriers, Minters said in a statement.
Between July 2013 and June 2016, over 2,500 patients across the country were flown by RFDS as part of an aeromedical retrieval for a mental health disorder, it continued.
“Regardless of where you live, all Australians need appropriate and readily accessible healthcare. Mental health is no different,” said RFDS Queensland head of clinical governance Trent Dean.
“A better understanding of what’s working in rural areas is needed if we are to improve the mental health of those living outside of the city.”
By combining RFDS and MinterEllison skills, we will be changing the way success is measured through qualitative insights, he continued.
“Quantitative findings don’t always tell the whole story, as patients often don’t feel comfortable having formal conversations and talking about their experiences and whether it has been of benefit.”
The insights gained will help provide a case for more long-term funding certainty and help to appropriately resource communities with the help they need, added Minters partner and leader of the firm’s national health industry group, Shane Evans.
“Continuity of funding and consistent patient-focused support is key, and that’s where these insights come in extremely useful, as our qualitative findings will help to understand what good service looks like,” he said.
“What we have found so far is that service providers need to spend a lot of time being present in the community, sometimes visiting every member of that community to establish trust,” Mr Dean noted.
“There is so much work behind the scenes in delivery of mental health services in rural Australia, such as time spent on properties or in informal settings, to build relationships and outcomes that can’t be easily logged or captured in quantitative measures… statistics are important, but they are never going to tell you the full story, or even part of it, as so much of it is hidden and below the surface.”
“Once we understand what is required in terms of mental health resourcing, we will need to be able to develop the frameworks which will make access and participation easy for people in the bush,” added Minters chief experience officer Fiona Glendinning.
“We’ve got a lot to offer in the way of access to experts, and it’s something very special to use our expertise to create better outcomes for regional communities and the RFDS.”