Helping and hindering: perceptions of enablers and barriers to collaboration within a rural South Australian mental health network

Aust J Rural Health. 2012 Aug;20(4):213-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1440-1584.2012.01282.x.


Objective: To evaluate clinicians' perceptions of what helps and hinders the delivery of mental health care across a service network in a rural setting.

Design: Qualitative, semistructured interviews were conducted with 10 individuals who work in one rural mental health care service network.

Setting: A regional centre in rural South Australia involving representatives of the mental health team, general practice, hospital, community health and nongovernment organisations.

Results: Clinicians' perceptions of barriers and enablers to working within their mental health care network were explored. Participants showed a strong shared commitment to effective mental health care delivery and a good understanding of the services that each offers. Interview data suggested that working relationships between local services could be perceived as stronger when a personal or historical element is recognisable. Similarly, the notion of familiarity and community involvement were perceived as facilitators in this network. A perceived barrier for participants was the failure to attract staff with mental health experience, leading to dependence upon the dedication and commitment of existing service providers.

Conclusions: Collaboration is especially necessary in rural areas, where access to health care services is known to be difficult. The informality of relationships between service providers was shown to be the main facilitator in the network. This is both a strength as it promotes the communication between services and service providers that is essential for successful collaboration, yet is also a threat to the sustainability of the network based on the difficulties of staff recruitment and retention to rural settings.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Community Networks / organization & administration*
  • Cooperative Behavior
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Health Policy / trends
  • Health Services Accessibility*
  • Humans
  • Interdisciplinary Communication
  • Interinstitutional Relations
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Mental Health Services / organization & administration*
  • Personnel Selection
  • Qualitative Research
  • Rural Health Services / organization & administration*
  • South Australia
  • Workforce