Residents of regional and remote areas are far more likely to spend time in hospital for mental health issues than those living in cities, according to a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
Mental health hospitalisation rates for the 2013-14 period were highest in remote areas at 1,096 per 100,000 people. This figure dropped to 971 per 100,000 in regional PHNs and 857 in metropolitan areas. ACT had the lowest rate of overnight hospitalisations for mental health conditions while the NSW north coast had the highest.
The geographical difference in hospital presentations was even more pronounced for incidents of intentional self-harm. Rates were low in areas like Eastern Melbourne (83 per 100,000), but almost three times higher in Central Queensland, Wide Bay and the Sunshine Coast (240 per 100,000).
Drug and alcohol use was the most common reason for admittance, with more than 38,000 overnight stays. This was followed by schizophrenia and delusional disorders at 36,000.
Availability of community-based support
The report suggests that local availability of community-based support could partially account for the regional differences. Different hospital admission policies, availability of hospital beds and prevalence of mental health issues could also play a role. Western Victoria PHN chief executive Jason Trethowan told The Standard:
“While we recognise the need for further services to support the hospital system in mental health, this latest data highlights the importance and effectiveness of embedding early intervention services in general practice, primary health and community services.”
Across Australia, there were just over 213,000 overnight hospital stays for mental health issues for the 2013/14 period, representing 5% of all overnight admissions. In total, the number of nights spent in hospital for mental illness was three million, or 14% of all nights Australians spent in hospital.
The Mental Health Reform conference, taking place in Sydney this November, will explore how service providers, PHNs and hospitals can adapt to the latest sector reforms. Book your place by October 14th to save $100 on ticket prices.