Regional GPs equipped to treat anxiety

1 in 5 Australians will experience a mental health disorder each year. Of these, anxiety disorders are the most prevalent, affecting 1 in 7 people. [1]

With many people turning to their GP for support, it is crucial that health professionals have the skills to identify and treat anxiety.

More than 70 GPs and health professionals have received training on mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression, as part of the Midwest Suicide Prevention Trial supported by WA Primary Health Alliance.

The latest training, “The Management of Anxiety” by Professor Geoffrey Riley, aimed to refresh and update GP knowledge on the signs, symptoms and treatment of anxiety.

Trial coordinator Jacki Ward said with an increase in mental health initiatives and awareness campaigns through the Trial, it was essential to prepare health professionals for an increase in people seeking treatment.

“These campaigns do a great job of decreasing stigma in the community and encouraging people to seek help when needed,” Jacki said.

“The Trial takes a multi-faceted approach to ensure that if and when people do seek support for mental health disorders, GPs in the area are well equipped to diagnose, treat and refer them to other services and health professionals, if required.”

As a Professor of Rural and Remote Medicine, Professor Geoffrey Riley understands the difficulty faced by GPs in the Midwest when it comes to treating anxiety.

“I am passionate about helping GPs, as they are at the forefront of primary care,” Prof. Riley said.

“It has to be acknowledged that mental health disorders can be quite difficult to diagnose in general practice.

“Patients don’t often come talking about depression, they’re more likely to present with a symptom…the way they present with this masked form of depression and a physical symptom adds difficulty.”

The Trial takes a whole of community approach to providing training in the Midwest, upskilling not only health professionals, but also more than 300 community members to recognise and assist with mental health concerns.

“Smaller towns may not have the same services available that other areas do. Communities are far away from each other and often the nearest services are in Geraldton, providing support to a lot of the region,” Jacki said.

“It is crucial that we continue to offer this kind of training for health professionals, but we also run a significant amount of Mental Health First Aid and Question, Persuade, Refer Suicide Prevention Training for the community.

“If we decrease stigma in the community, upskill local health professionals and empower local people to support each other, we can build a sustainable foundation for mental health support in the Midwest, for the future.”

The Midwest Suicide Prevention Trial is supported by WA Primary Health Alliance as part of the Australian Government’s National Suicide Prevention Trial. The Midwest Trial aims to improve mental health outcomes for Aboriginal communities, and for men in the region, particularly men aged 25-50 working as farmers, fishers and FIFO workers.

To learn more about the Trial, watch our video below or visit our website.