There’s a mental well-being gap between young people in the city and the bush, according to a new report.
The Bright Futures: Spotlight on the well-being of young people living in rural and regional Victoria report released on Wednesday revealed an increase in deaths from suicide and self-harm among young Victorians living in the bush. The rate has risen from 11 in 100,000 in 2012 to 13 in 100,000 in 2016.
The report also found young people in regional and rural communities were more likely to use alcohol, cannabis and methamphetamines than their city counterparts.
A lack of mental health services, transport, reliable internet, education and jobs were issues identified as impacting young people in regional areas.
Headspace Ballarat manager Janelle Johnson said it was difficult to attract mental health specialists to regional areas.
“Certainly some people in Ballarat will travel to Melbourne to get to specialist services, but we have to remember all the other regional young people in outlying areas may come to Ballarat. We have to engage specialists to come to our areas rather than sending people to Melbourne,” she said.
More than 75 per cent of psychologists, psychiatrists and mental health nurses practice in metro areas, according to VicHealth.
But advancements in technology has helped extend services to regional areas.
“People are now able to use Telehealth to have an online conversation,” she said.
“For people in areas that don’t have a specialist service or for young people who struggle to get out of the house or don’t have good transport for support to get into a centre, it will change their ability to connect with specialist services. At Headspace we have used the service for people in Ararat or areas as far as 80km out.
“There is nothing like seeing someone face to face but in the areas where that is difficult it is great to substitute with Telehealth.”
The report found unemployment levels were higher in regional and rural Victoria and a lack of employment and tertiary education opportunities caused many young people to feel pressured to move to the city.
Data showed one in five regional households in Victoria had no access to the internet, compared to one in 10 urban households, meaning young regional Victorians had limited access to online education and employment opportunities and government, health and community services.
However the report also found there were many aspects of rural and regional living that were protective to young people’s mental wellbeing, such as being involved in a community sports club and the way communities support each other through disasters like bushfires and droughts.
Ms Johnson said there was many groups who provided mental health support to young people in Ballarat.
“Schools really do have great welfare services to support young people. Headspace is now going into schools to provide support – we have not done that before,” she said.
“But we don’t have enough services here to cover the need… Particularly for Headspace Ballarat, I’d love to double all our staff here and we still wouldn’t keep up with demand.
“We need faster access to mental health whether in private or public sector, we need to entice specialists out into regional and rural areas and we need to continue to keep youth mental health as a focus, as early intervention and support is so much better than crisis support.”
You can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Headspace Ballarat on 5304 4777 for mental health support.