Unfortunately, mental health disorders have been on the rise across Australia, and the past five years has seen a doubling of mental health crisis calls to Queensland Police and Ambulance services, which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sadly, suicide rates are almost double in rural and remote areas compared with the rest of Australia, according to the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare. Access to primary, acute and specialist care is limited in rural areas, and distance, cost, cultural barriers, difficulty finding qualified and experienced healthcare staff, and concerns about stigma all act as barriers to receiving good quality mental health care.
Mental health services are notoriously difficult to navigate, and many have strict eligibility criteria or long waiting lists, meaning that people often fall through the cracks, unable to find a suitable provider.
The Isaac Navicare service was officially launched on 9 November in 2021 at the Moranbah Youth & Community Centre to try and address this mental health crisis.
The local community members, service providers, government and local businesses in the Bowen Basin are committed to improve the mental health of the community. Navicare facilitates access to timely, appropriate, and affordable mental health care for rural and remote Queenslanders.
Over the past 12 months since commencing the service, Navicare has now reached full capacity. Over 200 people within the community have been linked with vital mental health support over the past 12 months through Navicare.
Additional hubs and Mental Health Care Navigators are desperately needed in other locations to further increase availability and accessibility of mental health support.
QUT and Wesley Research Institute plan to expand the service to three Bowen Basin communities under a recently announced $780,000 National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Partnership Project.
This will improve access to appropriate and timely mental health care for people in outer regional and remote areas in Australia who are disproportionately affected by severe mental health conditions.
Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention and Assistant Minister for Rural and Regional Health Emma McBride said yesterday the funding would support researchers to collaborate with partners across Australia to design and deliver research that improves health and wellbeing outcomes in our communities.
“This project will lead directly to improvements in health policy, practice and service delivery,” Ms McBride said.
The expansion project led by Dr Zephanie Tyack, from the Australian Centre for Health Services Innovation (AusHSI) and the School of Public Health and Social Work at QUT, said the team was partnering with Beyond Blue, Wesley Research Institute, Isaac Regional Council, Greater Whitsundays Communities, mental healthcare providers and Bowen Basin communities.
“Our aim is to improve access to appropriate and timely mental health care for people in outer regional and remote areas in Australia who are disproportionately affected by severe mental health conditions,” Dr Tyack said.
“We will focus on three Bowen Basin communities as examples of regional and remote Australia.
“Our team has already co-designed and piloted NAVICARE, a multi-component model of care that can be implemented and adapted to individual and local needs to support optimal mental health.”