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Rural or remote mental health

9-minute read

If you or someone close to you is experiencing a crisis, or is at immediate risk of harm, call triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance. To talk to someone now, call Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Key facts

  • Living in rural Australia can be tough on your mental health because accessing help can sometimes be challenging.
  • People living in rural and remote areas can face stress from isolation, poor access to health care, money problems and natural disasters, which can all affect mental health.
  • Suicide rates are higher among people living in rural and remote areas, but with good support, many suicides can be prevented.
  • It is important to be familiar with mental health services in your area to know where to get help when it's needed.
  • Sometimes it's easier to seeing a mental health professional by using online services and accessing support remotely.

Mental health services in rural or remote areas

Living and working in rural Australia can be a rewarding and challenging way of life. Sometimes, for many different reasons, it can be hard to get help for mental health issues when you live far from an urban centre.

Your mental health is a significant part of your overall health and wellbeing. You need good mental health to help you overcome challenges, have healthy relationships and to enjoy life. Recognising when help and support is needed, either for yourself or for someone else is very important.

If access to care is difficult, for example, if you need to travel a long distance to see a health professional there are online therapies that can help:

If you do not have internet access, telehealth (phone) services may be a good option. You won't need to travel to receive specialist advice using telehealth.

In some remote regions, Royal Flying Doctor Service offer telehealth service a 24-hours a day, 7-days a week. They can help manage both acute (short term or sudden) and chronic (long-term or ongoing) mental disorders.

What are common mental health issues faced by people in rural or remote areas?

If you live in a remote or rural areas, you may experience any of the usual challenges of modern life, such as problems with relationships, family, work, or money. People who live far away from an urban centre are also more isolated and have a higher rate of:

People who live in rural and remote areas are 1.5 times more likely to die by suicide than people who live in capital cities. Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people make up a high portion of rural populations and are 2.75 times more likely to take their own life than non-Indigenous Australians.

How do I look after my mental health when living in a rural or remote area?

Here are some tips for looking after your mental health:

  • Recognise when things are getting too much for you, and you're no longer coping.
  • Talk to your doctor or another mental health professional about how you are feeling.
  • Talk about your experiences and problems with either your family, your local friends, a health professional or via a helpline.
  • Actively deal with how you are feeling.
  • Look at what resources, information and support are available for you.

What are signs you or someone you know may need mental health support?

Signs you or someone you know may need support include:

  • physical symptoms such as headaches or an upset stomach
  • money problems or concerns
  • feeling helpless or hopeless
  • increased use of alcohol or other drugs
  • feeling irritable, angry or having mood swings
  • having thoughts of suicide

If you, or someone you care about is feeling distressed or struggling in a rural or remote community, call Lifeline to speak to a trained crisis supporter on 13 11 14.

Where can I get help?

If you live in a remote or rural area, your local social network is a great support for when times are hard.

Seeing your local doctor is a good first step. They can help connect you with services that are right for you, based on your need and location. They can also help you build a mental health treatment plan and refer you to a psychologist or a counsellor. Your plan may include different types of treatments depending on your type of depression, your symptoms and how severe they are. Your doctor will also ask you about your preferences — what services or therapies you'd like to try and what you want to avoid.

Read more on farmer health or rural and remote health for advice on how to maintain good general and mental health in remote areas.

If you are having a personal crisis and need to speak with someone you can call:

Visit the healthdirect page on mental health helplines for a more comprehensive list of support services.

Resources and support

There are many resources available for people living in rural and remote areas to support mental health:

  • The National Centre for Farmer Health has information and programs to improve the health, wellbeing and safety of farming and remote communities across Australia.
  • Rural & Remote Mental Health deliver programs in rural and mining communities across Australia, as well as in Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander communities.
  • Royal Flying Doctors Services (RFDS) provides Mental Health programs and services to those living in rural and remote Australia.

For general mental health support and information:

  • eheadspace (for people aged 12 to 25 and their families) — call 1800 650 890 or chat online
  • Beyond Blue (anyone feeling depressed or anxious) — call 1300 22 4636 or chat online
  • Black Dog Institute (anyone affected by mood disorders) — online help
  • SANE Australia (people living with a mental illness) — call 1800 18 7263 or chat online
  • Pregnancy, Birth and Baby (telephone, video call and online counselling for parents — call 1800 882 436
  • My Aged Care (aged care services provided by the Australian government) — call 1800 200 422

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander

Healthdirect offers specific information on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' health.

The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) is the peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health with over 300 clinics across Australia.

Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet offers the social and emotional wellbeing resources:

Do you prefer to read in languages other than English?

Looking for information for sexually and gender-diverse families?

If you are experiencing mental health challenges related to your sexuality or gender identity (LGBTQI+), Qlife provides a counselling and referral service for LGBTQI+ people. You can call them on 1800 184 527 from 3pm to midnight every day.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: December 2023

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