We can’t make it rain. But we can support our farmers and their families in a time of extreme hardship.
Cloudless skies and pristine beaches pull millions of tourists to Australia every year. However, the postcards and tourism ads don’t tell the whole story. Head inland for a few hours and the effects of a country savaged by drought will be plain to see.
Antarctica is the only continent on earth drier than Australia and let’s just say their drought is not due to the sun. On average, more than 80 per cent of Australia receives less than 600mm of rainfall a year. Our lack of rainfall places an obvious toll on agriculture. The photos emerging from the drought are simply heartbreaking. But, the toll on farmers themselves, along with their families, can be just as devastating. Rural communities built on the back of farming are at the mercy of the elements. When the elements are unforgiving, this places enormous stress on an industry that does so much to put food on the plate for many in Australia and those abroad. There can be a sense of futility and helplessness for farmers and their families. After all, we can’t control the weather.
Tragically, the suicide rate in very remote areas of Australia is more than double that within our major cities. Depression and anxiety can be exacerbated due to the isolation of those living in rural parts of Australia. Unfortunately, people living in rural and remote communities face more barriers to accessing health care than those living in major cities, making it harder for them to maintain good mental health. Alongside the issue of isolation, farmers must also overcome the perceived stigma associated with seeking support for a mental health condition. Sometimes, the pressure becomes overwhelming and suicidal thoughts might set in. The national #YouCanTalk campaign provides practical information about what to look out for and how to talk safely to a mate or someone you love if you think they are at risk of suicide
It’s important that people in all parts of Australia rally around our farmers and ensure they know they aren’t alone in this extremely tough time.
Support for farmers and their families
- The beyondblue online forum is a safe, anonymous space for people affected by the drought to seek support from fellow farmers and talk about how they are feeling. A dedicated discussion is available at bb.org.au/drought-support-forum
- If you are worried about yourself or someone else and need to talk to someone, the beyondblue Support Service is available by phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 1300 22 4636. Webchat and email options are also available via www.beyondblue.org.au/get-support. Trained mental health professionals can provide free and confidential short-term counselling and offer referrals to local support services.
- NewAccess is free coaching service that provides tailored support to people in distress. The service is currently available by phone or face-to-face to people living in parts of Queensland, New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory. Please visit www.beyondblue.org.au/get-support/newaccess/where-are-your-access-coaches-located to find out whether NewAccess is available in your area. You can access the service without a referral from a GP or mental health professional. Other helplines and resources
Other helplines and resources
- Lifeline: 13 11 14
- Aussie Helpers: Virtual psychologist - call 1300 665 234, text 0488 807 266 or visit https://aussiehelpers.org.au/aussie-helpers-virtual-psychologist-for-drought-affected-farmers/ Donations - www.aussiehelpers.org.au
- Farmer Assistance Hotline: 132 316 (operated by Commonwealth Department of Human Services for information about Farm Household Allowance, income support for farmers)
- Rural Financial Counsellor Service: 1800 686 175 (for advice about locating counsellors in your area)
- NSW Rural Mental Health Support Line: 1800 201 123
- NSW Mental Health Line: 1800 011 511
- 1300 MH CALL: 1300 642 255 (Qld mental health telephone triage service that provides the first point of contact to public mental health services)
For people wanting to support drought-affected families
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