Mental health issues hurting rural areas

NSW Farmers health spokesperson Lisa Minogue.

NSW Farmers health spokesperson Lisa Minogue.

Improved access to services and programs to boost resilience are just some of the initiatives that could improve rural people’s mental health, the NSW Farmers Association (NSWFA) said.

October is Mental Health Month and NSWFA spokesperson Lisa Minogue said there was a growing body of evidence that farming communities were “not coping with the pressures they face leading to a range of mental health challenges and consequently a high suicide rate”.

Australian Bureau of Statistics data has revealed there were 1771 suicide deaths in regional NSW from 2012 to 2016.

“Key risk factors facing rural and remote individuals include but are not limited to, personal and family breakdown, external pressures on the business, and the tyranny of distance can lead to a sense of loneliness and social isolation,” Ms Minogue said.

While there was no silver bullet, she said, the Rural Mental Health Network (founded by NSWFA) had identified a range of pathways by which challenges could be addressed.

These included: improved access to effective mental health resources and services; drug and alcohol information, and crisis care; programs to increase business, family and personal resilience; strengthening social networks to decrease the sense of social isolation, and; and building skills to manage change through local community programs.

“Mental health is complex and NSW Farmers’ members would like to see the NSW government design and deliver strategies and programs that improve and maintain the mental health and wellbeing of people in the NSW farming community,” Ms Minogue said.

Assistant Health Minister Dr David Gillespie said the government was already responding to the need for more services.

A $194.5 million investment in mental health care included the establishment of 10 new headspace centres, he said, the majority of which were in rural locations. From November 1, rural and regional Australians would be able to claim rebates for mental health video consultations through the Medicare Benefits Schedule, he said.