Farming communities facing pressure in the wake of severe drought conditions will have access to 20 new ‘farm gate’ counsellors and frontline mental health workers as part of a $6.3 million commitment from the NSW Government. Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW John Barilaro, and Minister for Mental Health Tanya Davies today said the funding over the next two years will ensure individuals, families and businesses have access to 44,000 hours of crucial mental health support close to home.
“The drought has increased mental health issues such as depression and anxiety in rural communities and households, which is why we’re putting boots on the ground in these areas to make sure help reaches those who need it most,” Ms Berejiklian said. “We have already committed more than $1 billion in drought support, and this is another way we’re helping our farmers and rural communities during these challenging conditions.”
Mr Barilaro said putting mental health support at the centre of the State’s response to the drought is critical to ensure communities build resilience to brave it through the current severe conditions. “Our farmers and their families are under daily pressure to feed stock, operate a business and keep the household running and there is no doubt this takes its toll your wellbeing,” Mr Barilaro said.
“Simply being able to speak to someone about your mental health is one of the strongest tools we have to get through these challenging times. “We have increased the number of ‘farm gate’ counsellors on-hand ready to talk to farmers, individuals and business owners in our regional communities and walk side-by-side with them through this drought.”
The new mental health positions, which build on the existing Rural Adversity Mental Health Program, will be based in the Western, Hunter New England, Murrumbidgee, Nepean Blue Mountains, South Western Sydney and Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health Districts. Mrs Davies said the funding will also provide vital education for existing frontline support staff and 10 local wellbeing events to be held in towns across the State.
“People with lived experience of life on the land will lend a hand at events to start those conversations that might not otherwise be had. This is about reducing stigma, providing hope and support, and most importantly recovery,” Mrs Davies said. The community events will be held in Dubbo, Yeoval, Narromine, Nyngan, Bourke, Coonamble, Walgett, Coonabarabran, Mudgee and Gilgrandra.
This funding commitment is on top of $4 million already being provided to regional NGO’s to support communities facing natural disaster and drought.
For crisis support please phone Lifeline on 13 11 14. For more information on mental health services in your community contact the NSW Mental Health Line on 1800 011 511.