The ongoing impacts on the lives of mental health carers in rural and remote Australia are significant. Services for the consumer are much less available than in the city and the carer becomes a defacto ‘case manager’. The impacts on the carers’ life and health, immediate and long term finances, job and educational prospects form part of their concerns and are quite separate from their concerns about the health and wellbeing of the consumer.
Carer Concerns for the Consumers: ‘Who will look after him when I am gone’ this is the fundamental issue of all mental health carers. How can appropriate supported long term accommodation for the consumer be created and maintained in rural and remote Australia? What effective programs and projects exist both here and overseas? Carers continue to fulfil their role long after retirement age.
Create and Maintain Services: Both medical and community services lack workforce in rural and remote locations. The community sector (PHAMS and Respite workers etc) may have little training and few career prospects. What incentives are there to keep them within their field of work and provide a career path within the local community? Incentives could include remote access to both the Cert 4 and Diploma in MH, fee payment, etc. Areas of increased productivity and employment prospects (e.g. booming mining areas) are vulnerable to rapidly losing the community workforce.
Innovative Integrated Models of Care in Rural and Remote Locations: Carers in rural and remote areas can provide comprehensive models of care on a shoestring e.g. Active Minds in rural NSW. Showcasing some of these highly appropriate and successful (in terms of consumer satisfaction) services could encourage replication.
Incidental and Ancillary Workers: In rural and remote locations it is imperative that the service providers have knowledge of mental illness, the effects on the consumer and carer and knowledge of how to respond. Those workers include all who come into contact with the consumer and carer especially: police, pharmacists, teachers, GP’s, front line Centrelink staff and housing officials. What examples of training exist, what follow up is there, are consumers and carers satisfied with the results?
Carer Engagement Project Manager Mental Health Council of Australia