Rural Aid’s mental health counselling program provides critical support to farmers during times of natural disaster. To meet the increasing crisis in the bush, Rural Aid has employed qualified, nationally registered counsellors who visit farmers and rural communities and live within their communities for a minimum of three years at a time. This minimum term allows our counsellors to develop long-term relationships with individuals, families, community groups and other non-government organisations, to help build a holistic approach to community support.
Our program differs from other mental health programs available because it is specialised to our demographics and we offer, in addition to the counselling component delivered by registered counsellors, practical assistance which also connects our farmers with different support systems. Research has shown three significant factors that can directly influence the delivery of mental health services within rural communities: stigma, social isolation and mental health literacy. (Fuller; Edwards, Procter & Moss, 2000). Our approach to counselling was created to mitigate all the aforementioned factors.
Whilst technology (online) is used widely within the broader counselling sector, we know, through experience, that on-farm sessions produce the best results because they create a comfortable non-intimidatory environment that farmers respond to. Farmers often work in isolation and can sometimes go days without seeing another person, so the social interaction through an on-farm counsellor is appreciated.
Rural Aid currently has six counsellors based in Brisbane, West Wyalong, Toowoomba, Cessnock and Bathurst. They conducted over 2,300 face-to-face and phone counselling sessions in 2018/2019. Importantly, our counsellors made 5,000 outbound calls last financial year to farmers on our database. This engagement informs ‘our’ registered farmers of this service.
The cost of this service is $150,000 per year per counsellor, a minimum three-year term costs us $450,000. There can be no cost put on this service in terms of lives saved, every life is precious. Your support via donation will help us fund this necessary service.
If you’d like to talk with a counsellor please call us on 1300 327 624 or any one of the counsellors. If you know someone you feel could do with a call or a personal visit, please complete this form for us to get in contact with them. All contact will be private and confidential and any referrals are treated in the highest ethical manner.
Lilian Mariano – Clinical Director, Brisbane Head Office
New South Wales