Life on the land is challenging enough for the nation’s food and fibre producers without the added strain of mental illness.
But for the farmers who live in the far-flung corners of our nation, their voices are not always heard, as Patrick Tombola discovered after spending several months living on farms in western New South Wales.
The third Rural Mental Health Symposium was hosted by Victoria’s third largest city, Ballarat, from November 14 to 16.
It attracted more than 250 delegates from Australia and New Zealand.
Among the high-profile speakers was Professor Patrick McGorry – the 2010 Australian of the Year, renowned for his research in early psychosis and youth mental health
Fairfax journalist Jennifer Grieve attended Professor McGorry’s address titled “A 21st Century Approach to Mental Health Care”.
“What I found most interesting were the results of a New Zealand study which followed 1,000 adolescents from their entry into high school to the age of 30 years,” Ms Grieve explained.
“In that time, it found that 50.1 per cent had met the criteria for having a mental disorder – 60 per cent of those disorders were moderate to severe and 54 per cent were recurrent.
“That’s a pretty shocking statistic when you consider that most families have about two children. In effect, really all families are affected by mental disorders.”
Professor McGorry said because most mental disorders appear during adolescence or early adulthood early intervention was critical.
“People are building their friendship networks, they’re building careers, their futures.
“If something goes wrong – and in 50 per cent of young people there will be a period of mental ill health – that can derail everything.”
If need assistance, call:
Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467
Lifeline: 131 114
SANE Australia: 1800 18 SANE (7263)
Kids Help Line: 1800 55 1800