Like the rest of rural Australia, farmers on South Australia’s far west Eyre Peninsula are no strangers to the stresses and challenges of farming life. Isolation, drought and financial hardship are all taking their toll on our rural communities. It’s well documented that the suicide rate for Australian farming men is close to double the general male population – 32.2 per 10,000 compared with 16.6.
To find out how local health organisations could best assist local farming families Jo Clark, Chair of the Lower Eyre Local Health Cluster, asked the community what the Cluster could do to help during the Rotary Men’s Wellness Campaign. What she heard in response, was that families wanted to be empowered to help others. They wanted to learn wellbeing skills and suicide prevention strategies that they could apply to their loved ones. So, the Local Health Cluster, together with Mentally Fit EP, a community led mental health and wellbeing program on the Eyre Peninsular, ran a summer wellbeing road trip across the Eyre Peninsula.
“Empowering communities to help each other was a strong focus during our consultation. People wanted skills to look after their own mental health and also to have the skills to help others”, said Jo.
“Keeping our mind healthy is something we should do on a daily-basis. It‘s an important part of your overall health to be able to function well, have meaningful social connections, positive self-esteem and the ability to cope with change.”
This approach has a two-pronged effect – putting individuals back in control and allowing help to be at hand when needed in regional and remote areas where accessing health services can be difficult.
The wellbeing workshops were supported by the Lower Eyre, Upper Eyre and Far West Local Health Clusters and funded by Country SA Primary Health Network (PHN). The PHN works together with South Australian rural communities, like those on the Eyre Peninsula, to provide health services and support to the region.
“Rural areas traditionally have higher rates of suicide and that’s a statistic we want to change. Importantly, we want regional communities to be empowered to be a part of that change,” said Kim Hosking, Country SA PHN Chief Executive.
“Commissioning services and activities the community is telling us will help such as the wellbeing workshops helps us to support the mental health of our rural and remote communities.”
The wellbeing workshops offered activities for everyone from five-year olds, to young people, to parents and families. The workshops included yoga, art and mindfulness, as well as providing information on suicide prevention strategies focused on helping others.
“Our vision was for the events to be a space of connection, conversation, creativity and awareness of wellbeing. We also wanted it to be accessible to all walks of life and all ages,” said Mentally Fit EP’s Lain Montgomerie.
“It’s our mission to empower people to take charge of their own lives and to build a mentally fit, connected community.”
Need to talk to someone? Crisis support services can be reached 24 hours a day: Lifeline 13 11 14; Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467; Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800; MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78; Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636. Or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.