THE dire reality of mental health in rural communities does not know borders.
UK Nuffield Farming Scholar, counsellor and psychotherapist, Aarun Naik, visited Inverell last week to get an Australian perspective on the tragedy of suicide in rural communities.
Aarun spent the Friday with Inverell-based Farm-Link senior project manager Fiona Livingstone and project officer Rachel McLay for their Suicide Prevention Skills Workshop.
Supported by the Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health, the Farm-link project specifically delivers tools and education to those within communities about issues of physical and mental health, wellness and suicide.
“In the UK we’re now starting to see generally, within the agricultural community, higher levels of stress, of depression, of burnout and of mental health issues,” Aarun said.
“It’s something people are gradually starting to speak out much more about in the industry.”
He was visiting Australia and New Zealand to find commonalities between farming countries involving suicide in the agricultural sector, approaches taken by countries and communities to the issue, and the barriers to assistance.
I’m finding mental health wellbeing is a huge issue in rural Australia.Aarun Naik
“If they’ve managed to have success, what is it they’ve been able to do? So that’s what brings me here,” Aarun said.
He had only been in the country a few days, but already felt the buffet of pressure affecting rural Australia.
“I’m finding mental health wellbeing is a huge issue in rural Australia,” he said.
“Whether it’s extreme weather conditions, commodity process, the level of isolation, remoteness, cultural, social issues, I think the farming industry’s quite unique in that way’; it’s exposed to all these sort of stresses.”
Fiona said Aarun sat in on a workshop Rachel delivered at Inverell Community College to residents and professionals about identifying mental distress and potential suicidality.
“It was a very interactive group, there were a lot of questions, probably one of the most interactive groups we’ve had since I’ve been doing this” Rachel said.
Aarun said the day had been interesting.
“It was clear that a lot of the people who were on that workshop were close to this issue, and being exposed to people who were having some kind of mental or emotional distress, or having experienced suicide with people close to them.”
For more information about Farm-link, contact Fiona Livingstone on 6721 0074.