Supporting people in rural communities who are battling the drought is about getting “as many eyes and ears out there as possible”, the leader of a frontline mental health program says.
Tessa Caton is the manager of the Rural Adversity Mental Health Program (RAMHP) – part of the University of Newcastle’s Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health – an organisation that directs people to local mental health services.
RAMHP is looking for a fifth coordinator to work in the Hunter New England area, based in Tamworth.
Ms Caton said there had been a 50 per cent increase in the number of people her service had linked with care providers in the past six months, as the drought tightened its grip on the Hunter.
But she said it was encouraging that, in that time, double the number of people had approached RAMHP for guidance on how to recognise and get help for people who needed mental health assistance.
“People are more willing to have the conversation this time around,” she said.
“We are starting to reduce the stigma, I don’t think we’re there yet, but we are making improvements.”
Ms Caton said it was “incredibly important” for people to learn to recognise the signs that someone needed support.
“We’re trying to get as many eyes and ears out there as possible,” she said. “Our training up-skills people to notice someone who’s not travelling so well and help them get the support they need.”
Hunter New England Health mental health services general manager Leanne Johnson agreed there had been an increase in the number of people seeking support and advice. The local health district will receive a portion of $6.3 million in state government funding, which was announced on Sunday, to hire three counsellors to provide outreach-style clinically focused mental health care and advice at the “farm gate” – on people’s properties.
Ms Johnson said the service would compliment the work of RAMHP and staff would be deployed wherever a need was recognised.
“We’ll be looking for people who have mental health experience but we’re also considering whether we have farmers or farming community people – we want to be connected with the community,” she said.
“These new additional positions will be working across affected areas across Hunter New England.”
- Lifeline: 13 11 14
- NSW Mental Health Line: 1800 011 511
- Dry times in the Upper Hunter: Prime Minister hears drought is ‘severe’
- Everybody’s looking for rain: Drought dries out the Upper Hunter
- Fill a Truck For Farmers to take drought relief ‘to their doorstep’
- Drought affected farmers say they need more help
- No simple solutions as dry spell tightens grip on Upper Hunter