More than one in five people in the Mid West admitted experiencing a “very high level of distress”, according to a report exploring mental health in regional WA. The report found a divide in resources between cities such as Geraldton and smaller towns such as Mullewa, as well as a community-wide concern for young people. It suggests a decentralised focus, with a greater role given to local solutions, could do much to address mental health issues across the State. According to the report from the Centre for Social Impact at the University of Western Australia, 22 per cent of survey respondents in the Mid West were identified as having a very high level of distress, while 24 per cent were labelled as having a high level. Researcher Dr Lisette Kaleveld said one of the most striking findings of the report was a widespread concern for young people, from primary school age to early 20s, found across the various communities she spoke with. “There’s limited opportunities in general for care, socialisation and recreation, as well as not not enough opportunities to have really informal conversations about how they’re going about their mental health,” Dr Kaleveld said. “There’s less literacy around when to seek help, when they know they aren’t well, enough options for getting help.” Mullewa featured as a case study for the report, where it was found that the reliance on visiting mental health services from Geraldton, rather than permanent services, to be an issue. “According to the people we spoke to, especially in Mullewa, a lot of these services are drive-in and drive-out, and people don’t know about them,” Dr Kaleveld said. “There’s no time for that service to spend time in the community and do promotional work.” Another key takeaway is that attitudes towards mental health differ in various regional communities, and a one-size fits all approach may not be ideal. “For some towns, the issue is knowledge and literacy,” Dr Kaleveld said. “In some towns its a shame thing, people dont want to be seen walking in to see a psychologist. “Then in other towns, it’s fine to not be doing well, people give practical support . . . but they will never talk about mental health.” Dr Kaleveld said part of the solution may be for more localised approaches to address these varying attitudes. “There should be a place-based approach, where each community has more control over how they understand their mental health needs, what to do it about, and the the funding to do it,” she said.