18 February 2014

Support for drought-affected communities

The Rural Adversity Mental Health Program (RAMHP) hit the road last week to talk to the communities of Bourke, Brewarrina and Walgett about what additional support could be provided for these drought-affected communities.

The visit was at the request of the Minister for Mental Health and Minister for Western NSW Kevin Humphries, who acknowledged the potential impact of on-going dry conditions on the mental health of western communities.

RAMHP worker in Western NSW Local Health District, Di Gill, spoke to representatives from NSW Health and other support agencies about what they were observing in their local communities.

Ms Gill said one theme that arose in many of her discussions was that, while services are available to assist those who are experiencing mental health problems as a result of stress, often community members are not be aware of them.

“Information is key; communicating to rural communities about what services are available, what they do, and most importantly, how to access services,” Ms Gill said.

“Help is available and we need to ensure that everyone is aware of how to find help when they are concerned about someone.”

Importantly, there is much that rural individuals and communities can do to protect and promote their own wellbeing in the face of adversity.

Ms Gill said that generally people know what they should do to look after their health, but that they might need reminding during busy and stressful times such as drought. RAMHP encourages people to take time to fit in those things that they know are good for their wellbeing, such as being physically active, engaging with their communities, spending time with family and friends and doing activities they enjoy.

“There are some very simple steps people can take to stay mentally healthy, but they can tend to fall by the wayside when people are experiencing ongoing stress,” Ms Gill said.

“For example, farmers are so busy working on farms they can tend to become isolated. Social connectedness is very important for our mental health.”

RAMHP will partner with local services to run community events in March, encouraging communities to take time out to get together with friends and others in the community. The events will also provide a range of information with the aim of linking people to mental health and other support services.

If you need mental health information or support you can call the NSW Mental Health Line on 1800 011 511 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Media contact: Jenn Caine, Program Implementation Coordinator, 02 6363 8428.


The Rural Adversity Mental Health Program (RAMHP) is a key initiative of the University of Newcastle’s Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health and is funded by the NSW Ministry of Health.