Mental health in the outback
Mental health is a topic not often talked about in the bush. Yet, in the outback, where isolation, drought, fire and flooding are constant companions, depression and anxiety can quickly creep up. Without knowledge about mental health and its symptoms, things can go from bad to worse very quickly.
Frontier Services Murchison Patrol Minister Rev Mitch Fialkowski, Rhonda Shay from Remote Area Strategy (RAS) and Audrey Shar from the Murchison Financial Advocacy Project recently attended a two-day Mental Health First Aid conference in Meekatharra, run by Patricia Councillor from Central Mental Health Service.
“The course was basically fundamental, but it really helped to make us aware of some symptoms that people might have and how we can help,” said Mitch.
“Knowing what to do is important with our job. The course told us how to talk and act when around someone with mental health symptoms – by acknowledging and supporting them and having empathy. Never badgering, but encouraging the idea of going to a doctor or to take their medication. The course demystified mental health.”
Frontier Services runs a range of programs to support families from remote and regional areas to combat isolation and prevent depression and anxiety. Find out more about our services.
Tips for getting help in rural or remote Australia
People living in regional and remote areas of Australia are known for being down-to-earth, practical and resilient. But, living away from cities and towns can be difficult, especially with the minimal services and long distances to travel to an appropriate service, so it is important to know and acknowledge the signs and ask for help during the tough times.
- Recognise when things are getting too much– Sometimes we’re so busy we don’t even realise we need a break. Look out for any changes in your behaviour, thoughts or physical health that might indicate you need some help. Listen to concerns of your friends and family and talk to them, rather than brushing them off. If you have thoughts about suicide or harming yourself, call Lifeline immediately on 13 11 14.
- Visit your doctor– Your GP can help you understand your situation and point you in the right direction to find more support. If you don’t feel comfortable going to the doctor alone, take a family member or friend with you. Be honest about all the symptoms you are experiencing, including how you’ve been feeling.
- Look online– There are a range of resources, information and support available online to anyone who does not have access to services close by. Try seek out resources that have been referred by a website or service you trust.
- Talk about it– It can be hard to talk about your problems. But, having the support of family and friends can really help you cope with difficult situations. If you don’t want to talk to family or friends, you can try a counsellor, health professional, community worker, minister or call a helpline like Lifeline 13 11 14.
- Be positive and proactive– It can be helpful to focus on what you can do, rather than what’s out of your control. A good way to get started is to write down your issues, brainstorm possible solutions and identify small steps on how to achieve them. You can also make a list of where to go for different types of help and advice (e.g. emotional support, financial advice) and keep it in a handy place. This makes it easier to seek help when you need it.
- Get professional help if you need it– Your GP can refer you to a counsellor or psychologist.
These tips for getting help in rural or remote Australia are from the Lifeline website: www.lifeline.org.au
To find out more about mental health you can also go to: www.beyondblue.org.au and www.blackdoginstitute.org.au