1 in 3 country people can't identify mental illness
Rural and remote Australians are less likely to recognise the signs of mental illness, according to new research.
Published in the Australian Journal of Rural Health, the study shows that as many as one-third of country people who are suffering moderate to high psychological distress do not think they have a mental health problem.
Two-and-a-half thousand people were surveyed from across rural and remote NSW by researchers at the University of Newcastle and Hunter New England Mental Health.
Respondents were asked if they had experienced any mental health problems in the past 12 months, and then they filled in a questionnaire that measures psychological distress.
The study found that 472 people reported moderate to very high levels of psychological distress in the past 12 months. One-third of these people did not report any mental health problems.
The survey, called ‘Self-recognition of mental health problems in a rural Australian sample’, breaks new ground in rural mental health research. It shows that a significant portion of country people have problems identifying mental illness. The study said that mental illness in rural areas is often underreported because of the lack of mental health professionals working in the country.
But it noted that rural people are less likely to seek help even if services are available.
The study said “poor mental health literacy” is a critical barrier to country people getting the help they need. It adds that country people are reluctant to acknowledge distress as a problem, and have a tendency to associate ‘mental health problems’ with severe disorders that might require hospitalisation.
The authors are calling for a public health campaign that specifically targets country people.
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