CEO Update - No rain and still a lack of quality services in rural Australia

 CEO Update, Mental Health Australia


Speaking frankly...                                       

No rain and still a lack of quality services in rural Australia

We started the year by linking arms with the Royal Flying Doctors Service (RFDS) to highlight an important issue around the lack of quality and accessible mental health services in rural and remote Australia.

The RFDS pointed to data from the Department of Health that showed, while the number of registered psychologists in Australia increased in 2015-16, some 15 rural and remote areas around the country had no registered psychologists at all. 

In response to this, we welcomed the news that the government would provide an extra $84m to the Royal Flying Doctor Service to expand essential health services by providing mental health nurses for remote and rural areas. It was a start.

We also welcomed the establishment of a Senate Community Affairs inquiry into accessibility and quality of mental health services in rural and remote Australia, and in our submission made the following recommendation:

“The COAG Health Council should be tasked to develop a rural mental health strategy, informed by a collation prepared by the National Mental Health Commission of the PHN service mapping in rural and remote areas and other key data that identifies service shortfalls. The Commission should also be tasked with monitoring and overseeing implementation of the strategy, reporting back directly to the COAG Health Council.”

With the Council of Australian Governments Health Council meeting today, and the Senate inquiry to report their findings on 17 October, one week after World Mental Health Day on 10 October, I can’t help but think that the problems around quality and lack of services will have only increased in recent months.

Why? Because we have not welcomed rain in a very long time. And as we know, much of rural and remote Australia is in severe drought. The worst in living memory in some parts of NSW and Queensland. And with the Bureau of Meteorology Outlook not good for the next three months, the lack of rain, and lack of quality and accessible mental health services looks set to collide.

We can add to this the terrible financial pressures imposed by some of the worst behaviour described at the current banking Royal Commission.

Outside of these pressures, stress and concern of severe drought, we know in rural and remote areas mental health issues occur at about the same rate as the rest of the community.

One in five people experience mental health issues every year and almost half of all people experience mental health issues over the course of a lifetime.

But in rural and remote areas, people access those services at much lower rates, often as low as 20 per cent of their city counterparts.

So what we see is that despite mental health issues occurring at a similar rate, even when there isn’t a drought, suicide is occurring at a much elevated rate; tragically that can be double the rate of suicides in remote areas compared to metropolitan areas.

Metropolitan areas where we people do not directly rely on rain for their livelihood, and for the stability and prosperity of their community.

We can’t make it rain, but we can do more to ensure the right mental health services are available. Available to the right people, in the right areas, and that needs to be a priority for our mental health sector right now.

Warm regards.

Frank Quinlan

Chief Executive Officer

Call for consumers, carers from CALD backgrounds to join the new national multicultural mental health project – applications closing in one week

Mental Health Australia and project partners are calling on consumers and carers from multicultural communities to join a key advisory group for the national multicultural mental health project. The project provides a national focus on mental health and suicide prevention for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and aims to support service providers to improve cultural responsiveness and accessibility. Applications closing 10am AEST 9 August 2018.

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Thanks and congratulations to Helen Egan at TeamHEALTH

From all at Mental Health Australia a sincere thanks and congratulations to Helen Egan who earlier this week stepped down as CEO of TeamHEALTH.  An active member of Mental Health Australia membership and leader within the sector, I’d like to thank Helen for all her support over the last six years and we wish her well as she prioritises her health in the months ahead. Thank you Helen.


John Rasa appointed Chair of Mental Health Professionals' Network Board

Congratulations also to Adjunct Associate Professor John Rasa who has been appointed Chair of the Mental Health Professionals’ Network (MHPN) Board. John currently Director and Chair of the Quality Committee of Latrobe Regional Hospital, and is the former Chair and current Chief Examiner for Australasian College of Health Service Management Fellowship Examinations assessing health executives in Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong.  He was Chair of the Victorian Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance in 2015-16 and CEO of Networking Health Victoria from 2010-2017.  And my heartfelt congratulations to John McGrath, who I am pleased to call an old friend, as he steps down from the role, leaving such a strong legacy.

Next Week 

On Monday Mental Health Australia Executive Staff will be participating in an internal planning day to look at our current and future work priorities at our office in Canberra.

On Tuesday I will be in Sydney attending the second meeting of the NDIA Industry Reference Group, followed by meeting 3 for Australia’s Health 2040 Taskforce.

Also on Tuesday, Acting Director of Policy and Projects Belinda Highmore will be attending the final meeting of the Lived Experience Group for the Optimising Psychosocial Supports project.

On Wednesday Belinda will be attending the National Women’s Health Forum 2018 at Parliament House and I will be back in Canberra for a meeting of the Carer Reform Working Group.

On Thursday I will be attending the National Male Health Forum 2018 at Parliament House in Canberra. 

Also next week, our Director of External Relations Lachlan Searle will be undertaking some professional development working with the Australian Paralympic Swim Team at the Para Pan Pacific Swimming Championships.



The Mental Health Council of Tasmania (MHCT) is a member based peak body. They represent and promote the interests of community managed mental health services and have a strong commitment to enabling better mental health and wellbeing outcomes for every Tasmanian.
Website - Facebook - Twitter - 

Connections is a not-for-profit community service organisation that provides individual support, training, programs and advocacy in the support of mental health and wellbeing. Connections vision is to Improve Mental Health in the Community and achieves this by providing relevant evidence-based learning and life skill development programs that assist in the facilitation of recovery. Connections is committed to supporting people to be well resourced and make choices regarding all aspects of their individual support. They encourage the people we work with to make informed decisions about every day and long-term lifestyle issues, and to direct their own journey towards wellbeing and recovery. Each person’s individual needs are identified, and the planning offered will be responsive to these needs. Connections acknowledges its responsibility to respond to the individual need of each client, and ensures that the persons plan is guided by an individual’s goals and aspirations. 
Website - Facebook - 



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2018 Australian Mental Health Prize

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