Quality mental health care is something every Australian should be able to access quickly and conveniently - and when it comes to our rural communities, there is now access to a service that connects individuals with the support they need using video conferencing.
We got the chance to speak with Dave Carmody, Co-Founder of Call to Mind to find out more about how they are reaching out to rural Aussies, the biggest stigmas pertaining to mental health and how professionals can get involved.
Q: Tell us a little bit more about how Call to Mind works
A: Call to Mind is telepsychiatry service that allows people in regional and rural areas to access quality mental health care. We have a team of psychiatrists ranging in availability and speciality to best meet individual needs. Our psychiatrists hold consults on a secure video-conferencing platform so people can attend appointments from anywhere.
Q: How successful has the telepsychiatry service been so far?
A: We've had a great response so far from GPs and clients, with about 100 referrals in two months. We’re seeing people all over Australia, and getting them scheduled for appointments within 1-2 weeks of their referral. Many of these people wouldn't have been able to access a psychiatrist appointment otherwise for several months.
Call to Mind founders Ben Chia and Dave Carmody
We're also seeing a wide mix of people using the service, from children and families through to adults and older people, with a range of presentations, including depression, anxiety, PTSD, substance use and workers' compensation assessments. From our experience so far, it's obvious that there is a huge need for affordable psychiatric care in rural areas, and we hope we’re helping to address this.
Q: What do you believe is the biggest stigma in mental health for rural Australians? Why?
A: As with the broader population, rural Australians with mental health concerns are acutely aware of the negative associations of mental illness that unfortunately persist in our society, with a reluctance to seek help both out of fear of judgement by their community and a fear of what seeing a psychiatrist will be like.
In rural and regional areas in particular, the "small town" atmosphere can mean people worry about confidentiality and discretion. Telehealth is a welcome solution for this. We try to reduce the barriers to seeking help and make the process as comfortable as possible. We've found that when people use our telepsychiatry service from their own homes, they quickly come around to the idea that seeing a psychiatrist can be a really helpful way of understanding more about themselves and getting specialised advice.
Q: What’s next for Call to Mind?
A: We're excited about continuing to see people from all over Australia and expanding the areas that we service. We will continue to provide a range of psychiatric sub-specialties, matching people with clinicians that best match their individual situations. As we grow, we will aim to expand into psychology services as well, and will provide additional support and training to clinicians in rural areas.
Q: How can working professionals get involved?
A: We're hoping to make our service available to as many rural Australians as possible, and encourage clinicians working in rural areas to refer people to the service for psychiatric input. Many of these clinicians across the country are doing amazing work, but are often in under-serviced and challenging circumstances.
We provide a simple and reliable referral process that results in timely and comprehensive feedback, because we want to ensure we’re giving these clinicians the support that they need.