New platform provides better access to mental health services
Published on 11 September 2019
An online platform that allows people to talk to psychologists from home or wherever they happen to be via video conferencing has now launched in Central QLD.
Rural Health Connect was created in Rockhampton and was one of the first residents of Rockhampton Regional Council’s SmartHub.
Some of the region’s most respected psychologists have lent their support to the site and are available for appointments. Following the local launch, the service will expand across rural Australia.
The site takes care of everything from searching, booking, reminders, video conferencing sessions and payments, and it links in with Medicare rebates for people in rural areas.
Rockhampton Region Mayor Margaret Strelow said it is fantastic that SmartHub provides a base for Rural Health Connect to launch and grow.
"This platform offers a clear solution to many of the barriers people face when seeking mental health support in regional areas," said Mayor Strelow.
"Rural Health Connect has the potential to positively impact the lives of so many people, and I am very proud of the role SmartHub has played in supporting Megan to create such an ambitious platform.
"Council's SmartHub is designed to offer solutions to the barriers people face in regional areas when launching innovative ideas like this one. This launch helps illustrate why we invested in SmartHub in the first place, and how much can be achieved here."
Director Megan Gomez said the site aimed to address the urgent need for better access to mental health services in rural Australia.
“Once you get outside of major towns or cities it can be very hard to access a psychologist. Attending an appointment often means a long drive into town and that means time away from work or the kids.
“This way there is no travel time, no wait time and users can do the session at a time that suits them.”
The platform has been years in development and is completely encrypted and security approved.
“We have put a lot of effort into ensuring the site is user friendly for GPs who refer to us, psychologists and to the people who use it.
“Having the support of the SmartHub has been amazing, both in helping with the many complexities of starting a business and also in knowing there is a team willing me to succeed.”
Rockhampton psychologist Mandy Dexter said she was excited to use technology to support people who had not been able access services before.
“Travel can be a huge barrier to many rural and remote people accessing help, with individuals or families needing to travel significant distances to access a one-hour session. Additionally, if someone is in crises it allows us to respond quickly.
“There is always going to be a place for in-person services but there are instances where it makes sense to take advantage of technology.”
She said for psychologists, having the option of working online offered increased workplace flexibility.
“We can offer more regular appointments and it gives us scope to be more flexible with our time and work remotely and not necessarily need to be tied to an office. For me it will be a nice mix to offer services to both face-to-face and telehealth clients.”
Alton Downs resident Louise Brown experienced first-hand how difficult seeking help can be when she had post-natal depression after the birth of her third child, now nine.
“I felt like I was in a fog for two years. There was sleeplessness and endless worry about whether I could look after my kids and keep them safe.”
Her husband works away and at that time she had three kids under four and the thought of making the 20 minute trip into town seemed impossible.
“It would have meant getting myself off the couch, having a shower and putting on make-up and at that time of my life that seemed like running a marathon.
“The thought of leaving my kids with someone else while I did the session was very scary for me.”
“Talking to someone online would have meant I could have had my kids with me and it would not have been daunting, so I would have jumped at the chance and started feeling better much earlier.”
The site can be found at www.ruralhealthconnect.com.au