Each year, around one in five Australians living regionally and remotely experience a serious mental illness. The prevalence of mental disorders in country areas is the same as that in major cities, however access to mental health services is substantially more limited.
Tragically, the risk of suicide rises as distance from a major city increases. Country South Australians are being reminded to treat their mental health with as much importance as their physical wellbeing during 2019 Mental Health Week.
113 headspace centres across the country are marking the week with National headspace Day, the Port Augusta branch being one of them. While the rate of young people experiencing mental health issues has increased, Port Augusta headspace Community Engagement Officer Dave McRae said young people are becoming more proactive in seeking out services.
"It's really encouraging that young people and the broader community are getting more aware of mental health and being more proactive about it which is really good and a great thing to have seen over the last few years," he said.
headspace run a Youth Reference Group, which has become an important tool for improving the mental health of young people at a grassroots level.
"Mental health can have a big effect in a smaller community, especially where sometimes there can be a stigma with it," Dave said. "We have got young people in our youth reference group really committed to being apart of this and being active. Young people and their peers are some of the best providers of information and support too."
Brianna Fitzgerald is a member of the Port Augusta Youth Crew at headspace and can attest first hand to the benefits of accessing a service. She said time outside and social interaction helped with getting her mental health back on track.
"I've seen the difference from when I was 9-10 years old, I would be outside with my friends all the time. Now you're indoors or on a computer and you might be talking with friends or other people, but you don't have that face-to-face interaction that you used to have," she said.
"When I first started with headspace you wouldn't see my outside more than one or two days a week. Now I'm outside pretty much every day."
This year's theme 'mind your health', focuses on wellbeing, support and community. headspace have put together a toolkit for a healthy headspace and Mr McRae encourages anyone to come in and speak to someone if they are experiencing mental health issues. "It always comes back to looking at that early intervention," he said.
"When you think something might be not quite right, the best thing to do is to come in and have a chat to someone. Its that first step.
"It's the same for adults and young people, that first step on the journey is always the hardest but making that step to come in and say 'there's something just not right here or I'm just not quite sure', that's the right way to go."