This World Suicide Prevention Day, WayAhead recognises the distress being felt in many rural and regional areas of NSW due to the ongoing drought.
Earlier this year the NSW government declared 100% of the state drought affected. The declaration was welcomed but not surprising to farming communities across the state who have gone without rain for a substantial period.
Earlier this year, WayAhead partnered with the Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health (CRRMH’s) for a rural suicide prevention community forum held in Orange, NSW.
“At the forum we heard from the community the affect the big dry was having on them and their community. We know absolutely during times of drought that the risk of a suicide happening in a farming community is heightened and collectively, the government, service providers like WayAhead and farming communities must come together to make sure everyone is coping the best they can with the drought,” said WayAhead Chief Executive Officer Elizabeth Priestley.
As set-out in the CRRMH’s Rural Suicide and its Prevention position paper, people living in regional and rural Australia live with mental health conditions and illness, some live with high prevalence conditions including anxiety, depression and substance abuse, while others live with lower prevalence conditions including schizophrenia and psychosis. We also know that many people living with a mental health condition also live with a physical health condition.
WayAhead believes in promoting mental health and wellbeing for the entire community to build resilience in people and communities, which in turn helps people manage tough times in their lives which has the potential to lead to bigger mental health issues.
WayAhead has for some time now been dismayed at the increasingly high rates of suicide in regional and rural Australia. We know that suicide is a complex issue. What is also clear is that metropolitan strategies are not working in these communities. What is needed is a community-based approach which looks at short and medium-term prevention strategies.
“The position paper provides excellent grass roots approaches which are practical and can be implemented on local levels. It is the absolute belief of WayAhead that any government policy work looking to amend and improve regional and rural Australians access to mental health services, must include examining the way governments work with service providers in these areas to prevent suicide,” said Ms Priestley.
Ms Priestley also encouraged people to visit the #YouCanTalk campaign, led by some of Australia’s national mental health and suicide prevention organisations to help empower and increase confidence when it comes to talking about suicide.
“The You Can Talk campaign has been really useful in getting the public comfortable talking about suicide and what to do and where to go for help if they or someone they know feels suicidal,” said Ms Priestley.
The Rural Suicide Prevention Orange Community Forum was a filmed event and can be viewed on the WayAhead website – https://wayahead.org.au/rural-suicide-and-its-prevention