Telemental health key to reaching rural communities

by Kelly Stone
Telemental health key to reaching rural communities

The potential for telemental health services to make a real difference in rural and remote communities is the focus of a special conference being held at the University of South Australia this month.

Conference convenor and UniSA researcher Dr Susan Simpson says telemental healthcare is the use of video-conferencing technology by psychologists and psychiatrists based in cities to provide mental health services to people living in rural areas.

With a shortage of psychologists across rural Australia, Dr Simpson says telemental healthcare provides an innovative method of therapy delivery that overcomes geographical boundaries and costs associated with travel.

"Access to psychology services in rural Australia is sparse, with only a small proportion of those in remote areas able to secure regular psychological treatments," Dr Simpson says.

"Rural populations are subject to unique, often unpredictable stressors that impact their mental health. Farmers are particularly exposed to adverse conditions, including erratic weather, droughts, floods and bushfires, while Indigenous Australians are also vulnerable."

Dr Simpson says research to date shows telemental healthcare is as beneficial as face-to-face therapy, however its growth to address demand has been relatively slow.

"Increasing growth in telemental health services will allow to reach out to more people in rural and remote communities," Dr Simpson says.

"Video-conferencing holds promise as a viable means of delivering high quality to people with access-to-care barriers – not just those in , but also people with disabilities who might find travel difficult and for those who are incarcerated."

The Telemental Health Research and Practice in Video-conference for Psychology and Psychiatry Conference is being held at UniSA's City West Campus on February 21. It will unpack research into telemental healthcare from leading academics and practitioners across Australia.

Dr Simpson – herself a researcher in the field for more than 15 years – says the conference is the first of its kind in Australia and will bring together expert speakers from across the country.

Speakers include Dr Simpson and her UniSA colleagues including Penelope Richards, Lorenzo Guerrini and Toby Gray; Shirley Rochford from Country Health SA, who works as Team Leader for the Port Augusta Community Mental Health Team; Dr Pallavi Dham from SA Health's Rural and Remote Network; as well as research academics from universities around Australia.

The conference program will address three key themes: research and evidence on the use of video therapy for psychology and psychiatry; preparation and logistical considerations for setting up a service; and clinical applications of video therapy service.

The conference is designed to offer psychologists, psychiatrists and professionals the opportunity to learn how to develop a telemental health service, and will highlight prominent issues which support and challenge the development of these services in Australia. The conference will conclude with a panel discussion to summarise the position of telemental , consider future directions and develop an action plan.

Related Stories

Touching lives through video therapy

date Mar 01, 2013

An innovative therapy service is making a difference to the lives of those in Port Augusta who have been receiving Tele-web psychology counselling sessions from clinical psychology students in Adelaide.

Barriers to care for resettled refugees

date Jan 13, 2014

Barriers to health care for refugees who have been resettled in the Australian community remains an issue that requires a health service overhaul, a Monash University-led report has found.

Finding the rural allure for creative workers

date Jan 24, 2014

Creative workers are more likely to be drawn to live in rural locations offering diverse physical landscapes and high socio-economic and cultural settings, according to new research.

For teens battling depression, interactive online tools big help

date Sep 07, 2010

Interactive online mental health resources combined with traditional counselling help improve the mental wellbeing of teenagers, according to new research by the University of Sydney published in the Journal of Technology in Human Services. ...

Recommended for you

What makes a good horror movie?

date Jul 03, 2015

Like them or hate them horror films are big business and a string of new horror films are hitting the big screen this year. But what creates the intensity of suspense? And was Alfred Hitchcock – the master ...

Decoding the statistical language of the brain

date Jul 02, 2015

Let's make a bet. You will throw a dart 10 feet and – if you hit a two-inch circular target on the wall across the room – I will give you a dollar. Otherwise, you pay me a dollar.

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Feb 06, 2014 has a great listing of telehealth related companies. It compares telehealth features and services against each other saving visitors weeks of research. There is a great listing of international service providers as well that is a must visit!

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.