Supporting the mental health of rural and remote Queenslanders

  • Two women talking outside in a grassy field.
  • Dr Tim Driscoll, Manager CQ and outback Mental Health; Kim McDonnell, co-founder from Thankful4farmers; Jos Middleton; Mike Chuter, co-founder from Thankful4farmers; and Chair of RFDS (Queensland Section) Georgie Somerset with the staff at the Mental Health and Wellbeing on the Land book launch at Bowen.
    The 'Mental Health and Wellbeing on the Land' book launch at Bowen.
Jos Middleton
By
Jos Middleton
Manager – Far North Mental Health,
Royal Flying Doctor Service (Queensland Section)
Issue
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Most Australian households will have a first aid manual in their bookshelf.

With mental health related illnesses being the third biggest disease burden in Australia, we need to know how to support someone through a mental health situation as well as knowing how to dress a burn or snakebite.

The Royal Flying Doctor Service (Queensland Section) Mental Health team delivers more than 12,000 consultations annually across remote and rural Queensland.

Primary producers are among those at the highest risk of suicide, and it’s become increasingly apparent to us that a ‘first aid manual’ for mental health, addressing specific needs of rural and remote communities, would be invaluable.

With that in mind, I was keen to explore how the RFDS Mental Health and Wellbeing team could use our existing information sheets, coupled with evidence-based research – and produce an easy-to-read tool that stepped away from the academic jargon.

We wanted it to be down to earth, and relatable for those living in remote parts of Queensland.

So, we created the ‘Mental Health and Wellbeing on the Land’ book.

We were grateful to receive a grant from Thankful4Farmers so we could develop, produce, print, and launch the publication.

Bringing together some great minds from the RFDS Queensland Mental Health programs was inspiring and motivating throughout the project: incredible knowledge and wisdom came from the clinicians who contributed to the book, as well as a realistic community focus from a program coordinator who assisted with the layout and language.

The book features topics ranging from keeping relationships healthy, coping with kids at boarding school, managing anger, and dealing with difficult times on the land, through to navigating serious mental health concerns and suicidal thoughts.

It also provides a range of strategies to assist people in a time of need, and helplines, apps, and web links for further support.

It’s a resource that’s available whenever required. Those living in remote communities can struggle for reliable internet speed and can find downloading materials a challenge.

A physical book that can be kept on a bookshelf or in the glovebox and accessed in a time of crisis or a quiet moment has been a welcome resource. An online version is also available for download via the RFDS Queensland website.

This free resource for community members has been enormously popular and is already on its second print run. We want to spread this valuable information far and wide, so people can access help whenever they need it, and families and friends have tips to support their loved ones if they’re in crisis.

Thousands of copies have been requested and sent to individuals, industry bodies, community groups and libraries; purchased by Government as a resource; and handed out at RFDS events and community activities.

The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive:

Everyone I’ve spoken to about it has said how appropriate and useful the book is, and they really appreciate the practical tips.

A suicide prevention initiative in Cape York is so impressed by its comprehensive content and easy-to-read language that they’re adding it to the resource pack they distribute.

There was a real need for this book as people needed the knowledge to help themselves, their kids, their friends, and their communities whenever someone is struggling.

The success of Mental Health and Wellbeing on the Land, and the launch of a brilliant equine-assisted learning program in Cape York, have been professional highlights and the greatest achievements for 2023.

My hope for 2024 is that we continue to share these innovative, life-enhancing tools.

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