A Perfect Storm for Mental Health Crisis

A Perfect Storm for Mental Health Crisis

Hospitalisation, injury, disability, death—none of us are immune to life’s challenges and certainties, but Australians living in rural and remote areas have a unique set of stressors that can make facing these hardships all the more debilitating.
Around 28% of the Australian population—approximately 7 million people—live in rural and remote areas (ABS 2022c), and their varied geographic locations can play a key role in their mental and physical wellbeing over the course of their lives. Isolation and remoteness affect rural Australians in numerous ways: greater exposure to natural disasters and extreme weather, poorer access to healthcare services, less financial security and employment opportunities, and having to face difficulties far from the ‘village’ of support readily available in more populated locations.
It all amounts to a perfect storm of factors that have led to a critical mental health crisis in the bush. Rates of exposure to risk factors (ie smoking, excessive drinking, drug use), physical and mental illness, and death are significantly higher among Australia’s rural population. Alarmingly, the rural rates of suicide compared to that in metropolitan areas sit as high as double in some regions.

Rural Aid is committed to removing the barriers that have traditionally prevented rural Australians from accessing mental health support, such as location, stigma, and cost. A $3.75 million commitment to grow its Mental Health and Wellbeing Team by 300% and expand coverage into West and South Australia (in addition to Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria) is a strong statement of intention.

Rural Aid’s remote counsellors offer free and confidential support to Australian farmers and their families, bringing a range of services from early intervention through to evidence-based treatment directly to the farm gate—where it’s needed most. Our dedicated counselling number – 1300 175 594, is already making it easier for counsellors to provide emotional and mental wellbeing support to impacted producers and their families.

South Australian farmer, Kaye Wicker, took over managing her family’s property under the most difficult of circumstances. After suffering years of limited cash flow and declining farm outcomes, Kaye’s brother suffered a fatal heart attack, leaving Kaye to pick up the pieces.

Between the insurmountable workload and her crushing grief, Kaye’s fear and anxiety took hold, and it was at that moment she reached out to Rural Aid.

“It’s hard to speak about the things that scare you the most. It’s overwhelming.”

“I found that the Rural Aid counsellor was so supportive and gave freely of her time… and the fact that the service was free. If there was a charge, I wouldn’t have been able to access it,” said Ms Wicker.

“Our Mental Health and Wellbeing Team is one of the highest priorities here at Rural Aid. There are abysmal gaps in regional healthcare, and after years of hard times, our farmers need and deserve support,” said John Warlters of Rural Aid.

“The generosity of our supporters has allowed us to make a sizable financial commitment to growing our team and operation, and we’re thrilled to be able bring counselling assistance directly to farmers.”