Zoetis and Beyond Blue continue to support mental health in rural communities

30 June 2019


Leading Animal Health company Zoetis continues to support the mental health challenges faced by people in rural Australia through its crucial partnership with Beyond Blue, committing to raise up to $100,000 to support the charity in 2019.

Tragically, suicide rates of people in remote areas are double that in our major cities. Zoetis, who works closely with rural Australia through interactions with the country’s farmers, agricultural stores, veterinarians and their families, has helped raise $300,000 in the past three years by donating $5 from each sale of the company’s livestock, pig and poultry vaccines and drenches. The money raised goes directly to Beyond Blue’s Support Service to continue to help more people in rural communities than anywhere else in Australia.

“Zoetis is proud to once again be supporting Beyond Blue and the important work they do,” says Lance Williams, Zoetis Vice President, Australia and New Zealand. “Together we’ve made strong progress in providing tangible contributions to raise awareness of mental health challenges and help fund much needed services that directly assist rural families. We are passionate about the importance of good mental wellbeing and look forward to helping again this year.”

Whilst it’s well-known our farmers can be vulnerable to mental health challenges due to stressful weather associated events and  financial worries, the impact on the wider community in these areas is little known - from farmers and their families, to re-sellers, regional businesses, and much of the community as the effects trickle through the local economy.

Beyond Blue Lead Clinical Adviser, Dr Grant Blashki, explains, “In the medical profession we know that when stressful events happen together, like droughts, floods and financial worries, they can really take a toll on people’s mental health well beyond the farm gate, it ripples through our regional communities and touches everyone.”

“If farmers are under pressure, they can struggle to afford things like animal feed, equipment and other items which they buy in their local communities, putting pressure on service industries down the line.”

“For people living in farming communities, extreme weather events and the flow on effects of their animals’ well-being causes upset and stresses that people living in our cities may find hard to understand.”

As well as social and geographic isolation, economic issues, weather events and misuse of alcohol, which can all play a part on their mental health, a lack of local services on the ground in these remote areas mean offerings like that of Beyond Blue are vital.

Portia Gooch, who grew up in Dubbo, New South Wales, suffered mental health challenges during senior school, and explains the difficulties of limited psychological support in the area.

Portia Gooch and family

Portia Gooch (second from right), with her Mum Lainie, Dad Matt, and sister Bella.

“I tried to get help from psychologists in my area, but there wasn’t the right type of specialists around. I was only able to see a psychologist once a month at most, which was far less than I required once I became suicidal,” explains Portia.

“My family were completely supportive of what I was going through and did what they could to make sure life was as smooth as possible until I could move to Sydney and get proper treatment.”

Now living in Sydney, Portia studies Psychology at the University of Sydney.  “My experiences with my own mental health inspired me to study psychology, to one day help others with their mental health,” she said.

catherine williams

Catherine Williams who grew up on a farm near Parkes, New South Wales, shared the struggles of access to help as well as the culture associated with a rural upbringing saying, “I considered myself, and was always seen by others, as very strong, capable, resilient and independent and I do think that a lot of that came from growing up in the country. I always saw asking for help as a sign of weakness – it meant I wasn’t strong enough to do it on my own.”

Catherine was 15 when she first had what she now knows was depression explaining, “I would become really withdrawn and not want to do anything. I’d cry a lot and generally feel down but couldn’t really pin it to any particular reason or event. I also began to self-harm as I hadn’t built up any healthy coping mechanisms.”h a rural upbringing saying, “I considered myself, and was always seen by others, as very strong, capable, resilient and independent and I do think that a lot of that came from growing up in the country. I always saw asking for help as a sign of weakness – it meant I wasn’t strong enough to do it on my own.”

It wasn’t until Catherine became quite unwell that she sought help and after attempting to take her own life, was diagnosed with severe depression.  Following the breakdown of her marriage and another attempt to end her life, Catherine was back in the emergency department but this time, she was determined to get better.

 “I went back to work part time, started acupuncture, focussed on diet, exercised, took my medication and saw my psychologist. After a while I started playing netball, coaching a soccer team and volunteering for a charity. I went back to work full time and going out with friends regularly. I felt like me again.”

Catherine says if she could tell her past-self one thing, it would be to go and get help sooner. Explaining how these services have helped her Catherine says, “It’s like this, if you had to drive somewhere for the first time and there was a map to help you navigate your way there, wouldn’t you use it? It wouldn’t make sense to try to do it on your own when you don’t have to.“

The Beyond Blue Support Service offers free contact with counsellors by phone, webchat or email, and at $48 per contact, Zoetis’s kind donation will help over 2,000 people get the support they need through the Beyond Blue service.

In addition to the Support Service, Beyond Blue’s online resources and support can help people turn their lives around, with more than 100,000 people using Beyond Blue’s online forums every month, tapping into an online peer support network offering people connection and support from others who have been through similar experiences. The forums are monitored by a team of moderators who are trained to identify people at high risk of distress and suicide and help them to access the support they need.

“The money raised by Zoetis goes directly to our phone and online services which are an excellent way for people to get the assistance they need, regardless of location. In fact, it’s very encouraging to see that people in rural and remote communities access the Beyond Blue online peer-peer forums at a proportionally higher rate than people living in metro regions – 45 per cent of forum users live outside metro areas,” explains Beyond Blue CEO Georgie Harman.

“There are many ways people in rural Australia can be supported, and support each other, when times are tough, and thanks to generous donations such as this one, Beyond Blue can continue to offer free support, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” Ms Harman said.

People can support the Zoetis initiative from July 15 to October 31, 2019.

For every animal health product sold by Zoetis, they will donate $5, up to $100,000 to Beyond Blue.