Jennifer Rowan is from the small rural town of Camperdown in Victoria’s south‑west. Living in a rural area, Jennifer has seen that it can be difficult for those in her community to access specialist mental health support.
Living in a rural town, we have very limited health services and we experience long wait times for services. With a small number of psychologists in our area, they are inundated with work.
Although digitally enabled mental health services have a role to play, Jennifer emphasises that technology and online access don’t necessarily make access easier in rural towns because not everyone has reliable access to the internet.
It can also be difficult for us to use online services like eheadspace because of issues with internet access and connectivity. Having grown up in the area, I have seen how the gaps in the mental health system affect rural and regional communities.
Jennifer is passionate about mental health and is currently studying a Bachelor of Social Work. She is also a mental health first aid instructor with Mental Health First Aid Australia. Jennifer would like to see more opportunities for young people to enter the mental health field and sees this as a way of building more access to services in rural areas.
She also emphasised the lack of roles for professionals who deliver psychotherapeutic treatment, care and support:
We have a lot of young people out here who are quite passionate about mental health and who want to become mental health professionals and work in the area, whether that be as a psychologist or social worker. However they find that after their studies if they want to return to the area there is unfortunately no funding for jobs.
In addition, more access to services and professionals would help to break down stigma and encourage people to reach out when they need support.
I want our communities to get to a point where it is normal to talk about mental health and where we are all comfortable with it.
Source: Witness Statement of Jennifer Rowan, 22 April 2020.