Australians living in rural and remote areas experience unique challenges such as greater prevalence of chronic health conditions, increased exposure to natural disasters and lower employment opportunities. Even though the prevalence of mental health issues is similar to metro areas, the availability of mental health services is much lower. In the 2015 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare workforce data, major cities had 73 psychologists for every 100,000 people while very remote areas only had 18 available to them.
MindSpot patients reported that aside from availability, distance is also an issue with some people having to travel hours and across state borders just to see a GP or psychologist. This compounds the difficulties people have in finding the right service for their needs, especially when they experience complex mental health issues requiring several services.
Case study – MindSpot in action
Take the case of a young female patient who suffered from severe anxiety. She lived in an unstable living environment between two residences. Her trusted GP practiced several hours away from her and she often struggled to attend her appointments due to anxiety, transport and financial issues. She accessed MindSpot because she could speak to a therapist over the phone and engage in online treatment.
However, it soon became apparent that engaging in online services was also difficult as her anxiety was so severe that she required more intensive care. Her anxiety worsened and she reported not knowing where else to turn. The therapist had regular contact with her and realised this as well. They were able to locate local crisis services, kept her GP updated and arranged for face-to-face follow up.
We know that digital mental health technology is not a panacea for every mental health concern. However, the use of technology and a digital platform connected the young female patient with a health care provider. The patient was able to access assessment, treatment and care coordination to ensure they received the most appropriate care for their needs.