Lower Eyre Peninsula lacks mental health services

GAP: The figure shows the number of clinical psychologists available on the Lower Eyre Peninsula per 10,000 people. Image supplied.
GAP: The figure shows the number of clinical psychologists available on the Lower Eyre Peninsula per 10,000 people. Image supplied.

A new survey has identified a major service gap in access to mental health services for the Lower Eyre Peninsula despite the community experiencing higher numbers of depression and anxiety compared to the rest of South Australia.

The Department of Rural Health Regional SA Health Survey collected data from 3926 people from April 2017 until June 2018 to help identify gaps in the health system.

The region's results were recently presented at a Port Lincoln information night along with results from the department's Regional SA Workforce Project, which analysed census data from 2001 to 2016 to look at the services compared to Adelaide.

Locally 146 people responded to the health survey and one in four local respondents reported having anxiety and depression, compared to one in nine respondents across the state.

Despite the region's respondents reporting a higher number of mental health conditions only 1.5 clinical psychologists per 10,000 people are available on the Lower EP compared to 8.5 per 10,000 in Adelaide.

Senior research fellow Dr Matthew Leach said the results identified key areas of need for the department to focus on, including gaps in the workforce required to support an area's health demands.

"Mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, which are prevalent in many regional and rural areas, were mapped against available mental health services and it identified a major service gap," he said.

"The number of clinical psychologists or behavioural psychologists to treat the number of people dealing with depression and anxiety aren't there."

Dr Leach said across the state regional mental health services could not keep up with need and it was particularly challenging in regional and rural areas.

Ninety-six per cent of the region's respondents said they had visited a general practitioner in the last 12 months but there are only about 14 GPs per 10,000 people compared to about 27 per 10,000 in Adelaide.

Forty-six per cent of the region's respondents deemed their overall health rating to be excellent or very good but 23 per cent rated their health poor or fair.

Dr Leach said the department supported the existing and emerging health workforce and looked to regional and rural areas for university students to do placements to decrease health gaps.