University of Newcastle's Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health director Professor David Perkins said a perceived stigma often stopped people from seeing their GP.
University of Newcastle's Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health director Professor David Perkins said a perceived stigma often stopped people from seeing their GP.

Mental health stigma stops people from seeing GP

DAVID Perkins hopes that one day mental health problems will be treated exactly as any other medical issue.

The director of the University of Newcastle's Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health co-authored a research paper on mental health in rural and remote NSW.

He said a perceived stigma often stopped people from seeing their GP.

"They're all health problems," he said.

"If I've got something physically wrong I go to the doctor, and I'd like to think that if people are anxious, depressed, not sleeping, that they go and get help just as easily."

The paper found that of the 5000 people surveyed, about a third of those who had medium to high levels of psychological distress were not aware they had a mental health problem.

"And that has implications for themselves, their families and workmates. And it may be treatable," Professor Perkins said.

A lot of people are reluctant to seek help even when they do recognise the symptoms, Prof Perkins said.

"They may be catastrophising, they may feel embarrassed and that there's a stigma attached.

"The best solution is if they have a good GP is to go and talk to the GP and, if it helps to take the first step, take a friend for moral support."

Professor Perkins said there are many programs and services in the area that people could access if they needed support.

"We have the Rural Adversity Mental Health program with a website and a postcode locator where people can get a personal mobile number they can ring and get help for services in rural areas," he said.

"Also there's the Our Healthy Clarence Program which is about getting the whole community to improve their wellbeing."