Findings suggest that people from rural and remote areas of Australia have less access to mental health services than those living in major cities. This may be particularly difficult for women, who are more likely to experience mental health problems than men.
The Better Access Scheme (BAS), introduced under Medicare in November 2006, allows patients suffering from mental health problems to receive up to 10 mental health services a year, including consultations to psychologists, social workers, and occupational therapists.
The aim of this study was to identify the differences in uptake in BAS services and time taken to access the services according to area of residence, relative to need.
- 21% of women living in major cities used at least one BAS service, compared to 18% of those in inner-regional areas, 13% in outer regional and just 7% of those in remote/very remote areas.
- Clinical psychologist services offered under the BAS were used by 6% of women in major cities compared to 3.8% in inner regional areas, 2.8% in outer regional and by no women in remote/very remote areas.
- Of women that accessed treatment, 78% of women living in inner regional areas, 82% in major cities, 86% in outer regional areas and 90% in remote/very remote areas had received a BAS service within 50 days of the initial GP consultation.
- Across all areas, 12% of women reported a diagnosis of depression/anxiety without being treated under the BAS, with these figures slightly higher in inner regional and outer regional areas.
The findings suggest that women in urban areas have been better able to take up BAS services compared to women in non-urban areas.
Citation: Dolja-Gore X, Loxton DJ, D’Este CA, Byles JE (2014). Mental health service use: Is there a difference between rural and non-rural women in service uptake. Australian Journal of Rural Health, 22, 92-100.