Mental Health Literacy in Communities Served by the RFDS

The 2018 Australian Rural & Remote Mental Health Symposium will this year be held over 15-17 October at the Hotel Grand Chancellor, Hobart, Tasmania.

Joining us at the conference is Dr Lara Bishop, Director Research and Projects with the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia who will present on ‘Mental Health Literacy in Communities Served by the RFDS’.

Abstract

Background:
Each year, one in five Australians aged 16–85 years experiences a mental disorder. Despite greater exposure to some mental health risk factors, such as socioeconomic disadvantage, poorer access to mental health services, high-risk occupations such as farming, and exposure to environmental adversity, research has failed to consistently demonstrate higher rates of mental disorders among remote and rural Australians. However, rates of suicide are significantly higher, and increase with increasing remoteness.

There are several factors that may exacerbate mental health issues and contribute to higher suicide rates in these areas. An important factor that may influence attitudes towards help-seeking, is an individual’s mental health literacy (MHL) – their “knowledge and beliefs about mental disorders which aid their recognition, management or prevention.”

Previous research has indicated that poor MHL, comprising low recognition of mental disorders, poor knowledge of available treatments, increased levels of stigma, and perceived prejudice against people with mental disorders, is a significant barrier to receiving treatment for a mental disorder.

Aim:
The RFDS, in collaboration with the Australian Catholic University will measure the MHL of 1,500 people between May and August 2018 to:
1. Determine their MHL;
2. Compare the MHL of people in major cities with people in remote/rural areas; and
3. Identify the factors that predict MHL.

Methods:
Participants will complete the MHL survey online. Comprising 60 questions, it will be accessible through RFDS digital media channels, other online platforms, or in paper format. The survey comprises the mental health literacy scale (MHLS), demographic questions, questions regarding community connections etc.

Outcomes:
Preliminary results will be presented, including a model demonstrating factors that predict “good” and “poor” MHL. Factors that may influence MHL, and will be tested in the model, include remoteness, gender, sexual orientation, previous experience of a mental disorder, stigma, age, education, and community connections.

Key Learnings:
1. One factor that may influence people’s attitudes towards help-seeking for a mental disorder in remote and rural Australia is their mental health literacy.
2. Poor mental health literacy, comprising low recognition of mental disorders, poor knowledge of available treatments, increased levels of stigma, and perceived prejudice against people with mental disorders, is a significant barrier to receiving treatment for a mental disorder.
3. There are several factors that predict a person’s mental health literacy and these are related to where they live (remoteness), age, gender, education, previous experience of a mental disorder, stigma, and community connections.

Biography

Dr Lara Bishop is the Director of Research and Projects at the RFDS. She recently completed a research paper on the impact of cardiovascular disease on remote and rural Australians that receive services from the RFDS. She is currently managing several research projects, including projects on mental health literacy, end-of-life-care and telehealth in general practice for people in the bush. Lara is also a visiting fellow at Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, where she is involved in research on the right@home randomised controlled trial of sustained nurse home visiting, being conducted in Victoria and Tasmania.

For more information on the 2018 Australian Rural & Remote Mental Health Symposium and to secure early bird discounted rates currently on offer please visit anzmh.asn.au/rrmh