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30 July, 2021

RFDS delivering on mental health in Queensland

THIS year marks 25 years of mental health service delivery by the Royal Flying Doctor Service (Queensland Section) (RFDS) for people living in regional, rural and remote Queensland.

RFDS Mental Health Clinician Dr Tim Driscoll

 The initial delivery of mental health services by the RFDS in Queensland followed a Commonwealth-funded feasibility study to explore several projects of national significance.

 Once endorsed, the service was first delivered in 1996 by one clinical psychologist, Robert Williams.

 Today, mental health services have become a mainstay for the RFDS with more than 12,000 mental health consultations delivered in rural and remote Queensland each year.

 RFDS (Queensland Section) Chief Executive Officer Meredith Staib said the RFDS had expanded its mental health workforce over recent years to help meet demand.

 More than 30 staff are now employed to facilitate the current suite of mental health services.

 “These services are now delivered through four main state and federally-funded programs, including the Central West Mental Health and Wellbeing Service, Far North Mental Health and Wellbeing Service, Outback Mental Health and Headspace Cairns,” she said.

RFDS mental health staff work with general practitioners and other service providers to provide a comprehensive range of services.

 RFDS (Queensland Section) Outback Mental Health Clinical Lead, Dr Tim Driscoll, said the number of people seeking help in recent years had grown as stigmas around mental health, particularly for men, continued to dissipate.

 “One of the biggest changes we’ve witnessed over the past 25 years is the readiness for people to acknowledge mental health concerns,” Dr Driscoll said.

 “We’ve seen a lot of high-profile people such as celebrities and sports stars openly discussing their mental health concerns, and this has helped open up a much broader public discussion on the issue.

 “Nowadays, men in particular are more aware of and open to discussing the real effects of depression and anxiety, which is a massive shift from 25 years ago when it seemed to be more commonplace to just grin and bear it.”

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