Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Remote mental health services falling short

A report has found governments are still struggling to meet the mental health needs of people living in remote areas.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare looked at spending on mental health services between 2001 and 2006.

It found relatively low numbers of psychiatric services were provided outside major cities.

The institute's Jenny Hargreaves says 94 more services are provided per 1,000 people who live in Australian capital cities.

"We found some differences in the number of Medicare-funded services that were provided in city and country areas per thousand population," she said.

"For psychiatrist services there were 113 services per thousand population in major cities and 19 services per thousand population in very remote areas."

The report also found more Australians are seeing general practitioners about mental health issues, with depression still the most common diagnosis.

Ms Hargreaves says 34 per cent of the 10 million Australians who see a GP for mental health issues each year are treated for depression.

"One in 10 [general practice] encounters involved management of a mental health problem and amongst those depression was the most common, the second most common was anxiety," she said.

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