Drought support worker Matt March supports Western NSW LHD

Drought Relief: Support worker Matt March services the Western NSW LHD area. Photo: Supplied.
Drought Relief: Support worker Matt March services the Western NSW LHD area. Photo: Supplied.

People needing guidance for their mental wellbeing will continue being provided access to drought support workers after it was announced additional funding has been made available to extend this care.

On June 23, the NSW Government announced an additional $4.38 million towards its Emergency Drought Relief Package.

The program involves 27 peer support workers, who are trained in mental health working across eight Local Health Districts.

Drought support worker Matt March, who services the Western NSW LHD area, has a lived experience with the trials and tribulations that go along with rural life.

Mr March grew up on 80,000 acres just outside of Nyngan and is currently based at Dubbo and he and the other support workers "hit the ground running" in January 2019.

Throughout these past 18 months, Mr March and his colleagues will meet with drought-affected farmers for a chat or even just a visit to the property.

"It's just good to be able to have that ear and not only is that ear there to listen but to help support them through the whole thing," he said.

"Some clients we will check in with every week, and some we might go catch them on the farm every few weeks, it depends on the situation. A lot of people just need an ear and they don't know what (help) is out there until they ask."

Mr March welcomed the government's additional funding saying the support for drought affected areas and communities is still in the forefront of their minds.

"And they recognise that the drought is not over just because we've had some good rain/ We're barely entering the recovery stage now," he said.

"We need to support these communities, farmers and the whole agricultural sector through this recovery so we can get the industry up and running again."

While the rain was welcome, there was still a lot of financial uncertainty for farmers and many are struggling to get the funds to be able to put a crop in, Mr March said.

"Or to buy back into the market with stock... that exacerbates a lot of existing issues if they go undiagnosed too," he added.

The peer support worker said it may take months if not years before some farmers receive an income.

"It's a testament to government to continue the funding for us and other programs that we work closely with...," Mr March said.

For those wanting to help their friends and family who may be struggling, Mr March said one of the best things you can do is to be a little more open-minded.

"Let's do our best to be proactive and stop the stigma," he said.

"Just check in with your mates. There is plenty of support out there you have just got to look for it."

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