The present study sought to understand the rural and remote influences on people's identification of, and response to, mental health problems. Twenty-two key informants living in northern and western South Australia were interviewed. They included mental health and generalist health professionals, other human service workers and mental health consumers. Three themes are reported here: reluctance to acknowledge mental health problems and the avoidance of appropriate help; stigma and the avoidance of mental health services; and the influence of rural and remote circumstances. Most informants considered that many mental health problems were amenable to help from generalist workers, with backup support from mental health specialists. Informants thought this intervention to be appropriate because a common view of mental health problems as 'insanity' and a culture of self-reliance created a reluctance to seek help from a mental health specialist. These themes need to be taken into account when designing mental health interventions for rural and remote communities.