Mentally-ill people in rural areas are waiting up to five or six weeks to access basic care, a delay that can be detrimental in a health crisis.
That's one of the preliminary findings of PhD candidate Jessica Houston, who is scouting out case studies for a major new research program in Tamworth.
The Charles Sturt University sessional lecturer said mental healthcare remains stigmatised and largely isn't spoken about.
"It's too stigmatised, no way, we wouldn't even talk about it," she said.
"I've only been open about mental health issues in my 20s. Growing up in Young, there's no conversation about it."
The study, which is titled 'Youth access to mental health services in regional NSW', covers people aged between 16 and 24 who have either used mental health services, or have tried to.
Ms Houston said rates of mental health in rural areas are "quite dire".
Called 'Every Voice Matters', her research is aimed at understanding the barriers to getting care in rural areas.
"It's very normal for people from the country to drive to access healthcare, she said.
"There's just not as many options here. If you're really out in the sticks, if you're past Dubbo you enter into Nyngan and Bourke and Cobar, there's very little if anything."
"It's an equity thing, If you don't have a car, if your parents can't afford these appointments, you can't go anywhere.
"If you're looking for a psychologist or going to your GP, you go to your GP for a plan you still have to wait about five to six weeks, generally."
Ms Houston said the research is designed to aid advocacy by young people in rural areas, to identify what young people want, provide guidelines and affect policy.
The research is halfway completed and should take about another year to finish.
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