Considering the vastness of Australia and the number of people who live in regional and rural areas, it’s a concerning fact that remoteness is a major risk factor contributing to mental health issues and suicide, with the suicide rates being 60% higher than rates in major cities. In addition, people in outer regional, remote or very remote areas of Australia face more barriers to accessing health care than people living in major cities, making it harder for them to maintain good mental health.
In a continued effort to raise awareness of mental health in rural and regional Australia, leading animal health business, Zoetis, has partnered with Beyond Blue to support mental health initiatives and reduce the stigma around mental health. Over the past six years, Zoetis has raised $600,000 for the Beyond Blue Support Service by donating $5 from each sale of the company’s livestock, pig and poultry vaccines and drenches. In 2022, Zoetis aims to once again reach its $100,000 fundraising target by the end of the year.
“Zoetis works closely with rural Australia through interactions with the country’s farming community, agricultural stores, veterinarians and their families. We are proud to once again be supporting Beyond Blue and the important work they do,” says Lance Williams, Zoetis Senior Vice President and Cluster Lead, Australia and New Zealand. “The money raised goes directly to the Beyond Blue Support Service to continue helping people living in remote areas. To date, thanks to Zoetis’s donation, over 12,000 people have been able to get the support they need through the service. Together we have made strong progress in supporting the mental health and wellbeing of those who live in rural Australia, and we are passionate about helping again this year.”
Derek Schoen, a farmer for more than 36 years, is a beef, grain and hay producer in Corowa, New South Wales. Mr Schoen is a member and former president of the NSW Farmers Association, a former deputy mayor of Corowa Shire Council, NSW Rural Assistance Authority Board Director, Chair of Murray Local Land Services, and is on Beyond Blue’s Board of Directors, providing a wealth of experience on rural life. “The farming community has endured many challenges over the years. Through droughts, floods, bushfires and the on-going Covid-19 related issues, rural Australia and country people are stoic and display considerable courage, however the impact on mental health has been significant for many,” says Mr Schoen.
With many farmers, small business owners, workers and parents feeling the pressure it is vital that people receive mental health support as early as possible to prevent their issues leading to more serious mental health conditions. Financial hardship, isolation and stigma can take a toll on those in distress, placing their mental health at risk. It's important to remember that depression and anxiety are common conditions, not weaknesses, and with the right treatment, most people can recover.
“The good news is that most of us will be able to cope very well with challenges as they arise - we will use our normal resources, our strengths, networks and the support that we have around us from family, friends and loved ones,” says Mr Schoen. “People in rural Australia are known for their resilience in times of crisis, but even the most resilient among us need extra support at times. We want everyone to know that support is available and encourage people to seek advice. Asking for support is a sign of strength – not weakness.”
Beyond Blue Chief Community Officer Patrice O’Brien said the journey to better mental health can start with small actions.
“It’s important to make looking after ourselves a priority and set goals for sleep, exercise and ’me‘ time. Maintaining social connections, keeping in touch with friends and family, and being part of a community provides a supportive network. Also, understanding which tools and strategies work well for you in tough times and reaching out for that extra support when you need it are really important.”
Feeling connected with others can reduce stress and build resilience. The main thing for everyone to know is that, “You are not alone and you don’t have to work things out by yourself,” Ms O’Brien said. “Whatever the reason, Beyond Blue wants people to know that no problem is too big or small to reach out. Sometimes, just talking to someone can make a difference.”
The Beyond Blue Support Service offers free and immediate counselling, advice and referrals via phone, webchat or email. In addition to the support service, Beyond Blue has resources and information online at www.beyondblue.org.au, including Online Forums which offer peer support in a safe, moderated setting.
People can support the Zoetis initiative from July 18 to October 31, 2022. For every animal health product sold by Zoetis, they will donate $5, up to $100,000, to Beyond Blue.
For more information on how you can help Zoetis to raise vital funds to support mental health in rural communities through its partnership with Beyond Blue please visit www.zoetis.com.au
For more information about depression and anxiety, visit www.beyondblue.org.au. To talk to a mental health professional for free, contact the 24/7 Beyond Blue Support Service on 1300 22 46 36. Free web chat is also available from 3pm until midnight at beyondblue.org.au/getsupport and you can join the forums for free and download the BeyondNow app from the website.
Here, some Beyond Blue community Speakers share personal stories of resilience, and how they have been supported in their steps to better mental health.
Eddie Sloan – Kingaroy, QLD
Eddie Sloan is a former farmer who worked in the agricultural industry at management level after having to leave the family farm in Western Australia in the early 1990s. A change of direction in his career has seen Eddie follow a path into the disability sector working with and supporting people with disabilities into meaningful and lasting jobs in Kingaroy Qld.
Eddie grew up as a third-generation farmer in WA and after losing his father in his late teens he found himself suddenly with a lot more responsibility, managing the farm on his own. With the added pressure, he first started experiencing issues with his mental health in his twenties, but he became good at masking how he felt and used alcohol as a coping mechanism. It was only after several hospitalisations after attempting to take his own life and receiving support and treatment that at the age of 45, Eddie accepted that he had an illness and realised it could be managed.
Eddie says resilience is an important part of his mental health journey that keeps him putting one foot in front of another. “At one stage where I was struggling to get up each day and get out of the house, I would tap into my own self-reliance and inner strength to keep going in small ways. Being resilient meant taking those small steps, keeping going, connecting with family and knowing things would get easier. I want people to know there is always hope, and that early detection and management is an important step towards recovery, and in doing so we find our resilience within,” he said.
Katie Fielding – Burnie, Tasmania
Katie Fielding is a mental health Peer Worker from Burnie, Tasmania, who taps into her lived experience to support others. Katie’s mental health journey began in her early years, struggling to find meaning after quitting competitive swimming at age 16.
She also encountered new challenges as a young mum living in Ulverstone, finding support in her husband, Jeremy, and from her GP and psychologist. After her first pregnancy, Katie was diagnosed with postnatal depression and prescribed medication to help manage her symptoms.
During her second pregnancy, with her doctor’s support, Katie stopped using her medication to protect her baby, but her symptoms worsened, and she started having suicidal thoughts. Katie was supported closely by her doctors to resume a low level of medication; a hard decision which brought many mixed emotions. After the birth of her second child, Katie was eventually diagnosed with bipolar, a diagnosis she now owns, but doesn’t define her.
“When I was first diagnosed, I found it very difficult, I didn’t want to be defined by my diagnosis. Over time I’ve worked on my resilience, I’m stronger now and more open in discussing my mental health. I have learned that my bipolar diagnosis is a small part of who I am, and it most certainly does not define me,” Katie says.
Katie has retrained in peer support, and shares her first-hand knowledge, strength, and resilience to improve the lives of people in her community.
Trace Dann – Nowra, NSW
Trace Dann has lived a full life. He has seen war service as a commissioned army officer and has a diverse working history spanning the public service, rally car racing, theatre, and media. He also lives with PTSD.
Trace says his time in the army taught him to get on with the job at hand, to keep busy and delay any emotional response. “I found my brain was constantly in overdrive and to keep the nasty things my brain wanted to think about out of my head, I took on more and more tasks in my non-work hours,” Trace said. “I had the symptoms of PTSD, but I just thought they were normal things that everyone experienced.”
One day, Trace decided to call a helpline and went on to seek support from his GP and a psychologist. Trace also started putting his thoughts into an online blog called Captain Krankypants which found an online following and spawned into a successful speaking series. Using his theatre skills and first-hand experience with PTSD, Trace continues to speak with audiences who connect with his story of resilience – sparking conversations about mental health and encouraging others to seek support.
High-res images are available here
As the world’s leading animal health company, Zoetis is driven by a singular purpose: to nurture our world and humankind by advancing care for animals. After nearly 70 years innovating ways to predict, prevent, detect, and treat animal illness, Zoetis continues to stand by those raising and caring for animals worldwide - from livestock farmers to veterinarians and pet owners. The company’s leading portfolio and pipeline of medicines, vaccines, diagnostics, and technologies make a difference in over 100 countries. In 2020, Zoetis generated revenue of $6.7 billion with ~11,300 employees. For more, visit www.zoetis.com.
 National Rural Health Alliance, Suicide in Rural and Remote Australia fact sheet, 2021, www.ruralhealth.org.au/sites/default/files/publications/nrha-rural-suicide-factsheet-july2021.pdf