Riverina health authorities say they are concerned about increasing rates of psychological distress in the region.
Murrumbidgee Local Health District chief executive officer Jill Ludford raised the issue of mental health at the organisation's annual public meeting, livestreamed on November 24.
"In our region we are seeing higher rates of distress in people over the age of 16," she said.
"We also have a higher number of people requiring hospitalisation for mental illness."
She said reducing the number of people being hospitalised for mental illness would be an "absolute focus" for the health district.
"And, in particular, addressing the suicide rates which are so problematic in rural NSW," she said.
"We have a number of strategies towards zero suicides which we will be progressing."
But speaking to media earlier in the day, Ms Ludford said the MLHD has no plans to build a mental health inpatient unit at Griffith Base Hospital.
The only mental health unit in the 125,243 square kilometre region is located at Wagga Base Hospital.
She said improving Aboriginal health and wellbeing was another priority for the MLHD.
"We know we have a lot more work to do and there is still a notable gap between Aboriginal people and non-Aboriginal health outcomes in our region," she said.
Ms Ludford praised the MLHD's staff and volunteers for their contribution during a "disruptive" year of prolonged drought, bushfires and the coronavirus pandemic.
In other news:
Gundagai's Pat Watson and Lake Cargelligo's Maria Hart were recognised with volunteer awards.
Wagga psychologist Angela Farrell was recognised with the Don Kendell Memorial Leadership Award for her work with eating disorder patients.
MLHD board chair Gayle Murphy outlined the organisation's "vision", which includes improving health outcomes for children, Aboriginal people, older persons and those with mental health needs.
MLHD director of finance and performance Kevin Lawrence said the organisation was navigating a "difficult" environment and had ended the 2019-2020 financial year in a challenging financial position.
While its funding increased, the MLHD's expenses also jumped by 4.8 per cent from the previous year, Mr Lawrence said.
He said the MLHD spent an additional $12.5 million in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including about $5 million on elective surgery services at private facilities.
If you need support or are struggling with mental illness, please contact Lifeline: 13 11 14; Murrumbidgee AccessLine: 1800 800 944.