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Actions in mental health workforce strategy needed now

This Mental Health Week, the National Rural Health Alliance (the Alliance) welcomes the launch of the National Mental Health Workforce Strategy 2022-2032 by the Australian Government.

The Alliance is pleased to see that the issues of mental health workforce shortages in rural and remote locations and options to address the specific needs of communities to attract, retain, maximise, support and train a rural workforce are given due consideration in this Strategy.

“We know mental illness in rural and remote Australia is more prevalent than in major cities and tragically, rates of self-harm and suicide increase with remoteness.

“We are particularly pleased to see the reference to the need for home grown professionals as the Strategy notes that people originating from rural and remote areas often have a preference to undertake training and employment in their own or comparable communities. The Strategy rightly notes that there needs to be a focus on developing, growing and sustaining the regional, rural and remote mental health workforce through providing localised education, training and placement opportunities for students,” said the Alliance Chief Executive Susi Tegen.

“Funding support needs to be provided to local clinicians to take on students as well as support those who work long hours in their communities, as their contribution often goes unnoticed until they burn out and leave.

“We’re pleased that many of the Alliance’s recommendations to the National Mental Health Workforce Strategy Taskforce have been incorporated as it acknowledges that a universal workforce approach is not viable for the unique and varied challenges in rural and remote areas.

“The Strategy includes an action item to incentivise the use of place-based approaches to training and professional development to help attract and retain workforce in rural and remote areas in the next 3 to 5 years. The Alliance believes place-based solutions need to be actioned now as rural communities cannot wait any longer. Place-based solutions are needed now to deliver primary health care including mental health care to our rural communities.

“We welcome the reference to wrap-around service delivery models that adopt a person-centred approach that includes their family and carers which have demonstrated the potential to improve health outcomes, particularly in regional, rural and remote areas.

“But we now need to see the resources and commitment by all levels of government to ensure the actions in the strategy become tangible responses to this area of critical need,” Ms Tegen concluded.


About us:

The National Rural Health Alliance (the Alliance) comprises 48 national organisations committed to improving the health and wellbeing of the 7 million people in rural and remote Australia. Our diverse membership includes representation from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector, health professional organisations, health service providers, health educators and students.

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