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Camperdown psychologist on the shortlist for Rural Women’s Award

A PASSION to increase access to mental healthcare in rural areas has Camperdown-based psychologist Melissa Ferrier in the running for a state award.

Dr Ferrier is on the shortlist for the 2015 Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) Rural Women’s Award to be announced next week.

The $10,000 grant that comes with the top honour would allow her to continue her work in improving mental health access.

Dr Ferrier, a clinical psychologist, specialises in children, adolescents and families and combines her private practice work with visiting clinics and schools across the region.

Compared to the inner-city, she said regional areas severely lagged behind when it came to mental health access.

“I’m very excited that I’m shortlisted,” she said.

“It’s a great opportunity to have a platform to talk about the inequity for rural Australians in accessing mental healthcare.”

Dr Ferrier said the stigma surrounding mental health was improving in regional areas. “But there’s still that barrier we have to get past,” she said.

That change would come with more education in schools to encourage the next generation to view mental health positively, she said.

“More education in schools means then children grow up thinking that caring for their mind is just as important as caring for their body.”

Dr Ferrier came to the south-west from Melbourne in 2003 and quickly fell in love with Camperdown.

If she wins the award she plans to use it to promote telehealth services and market a computer program she has been developing over the past year.

Telehealth was one solution to addressing the lack of mental health professionals in rural areas. The service allows people seeking help in remote areas to be linked up with a psychologist from anywhere in Australia.

“We have to think outside the box a little bit,” she said.

Dr Ferrier said she had been working on a computer program to complement her work for the past year.

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