According to the Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health, people living in rural and remote Australia are up to twice as likely to die by suicide as people living in major cities, with rates of suicide increasing with the remoteness. Within these rural and remote populations, men, young people and farmers are among those at an increased risk of suicide. While Queensland recorded a decrease in the number of registered deaths due to suicide from 2017-2018, it remains the state with the second highest numbers.
There are many external factors that can lead to poor mental health in rural men. The vagaries of farming such as droughts, floods, cyclones, bushfires, rapidly rising input costs, falling commodity prices, unexpected cash flow issues and pressure from banks are well known, but they can take a toll. And they can be compounded by the expectation of living up to the family farm legacy. And as I wrote last year, “without you or those close to you noticing, it gradually pulls you into a hole, a bog hole”.
Since launching the Are You Bogged Mate? program 12 months ago, I’ve spoken at events from Rockhampton to Bendigo and have reached about 4,500 rural people (mostly men) face to face. The program, which aims to boost awareness and start a conversation with the broader community about the rising issue of depression and suicide rates among men in rural areas, has received an amazing response. And as more rural men put their trust in me and the program, they can talk about their story or admit when they’re in trouble and we can light the path to much needed support.
Establishing some great working relationships with key support agencies has been a huge benefit for the delivery of the ‘Are You Bogged Mate?’ program. Knowing what services are available in different regions has helped when directing people to the appropriate support. In return, I have been able to start a conversation between rural communities and the professional service providers and give them a ‘foot in the door’ to a demographic that they may not otherwise engage with.
But as many parts of Queensland continue to struggle, the resilience of country people is being well and truly tested. The issue of mental health has never been more important for rural people and it is critical that those struggling do not become more isolated. The complexity of factors impacting on rural suicide highlights the need for a flexible approach to strategies specific for these areas. While getting enough frontline services into the bush is an ongoing challenge. With support from QFF, we continue to advocate to government, mental health support organisations, key industry associations and community groups for help to overturn these trends affecting our men in rural and regional communities.
Are You Bogged Mate? is looking forward to reaching many more rural people in its second year and we encourage anyone who is interested in having Mary speak at an event to get in touch. It may be the conversation you can’t afford not to have, and the diary is filling very quickly.
Are you bogged, mate? www.areyouboggedmate.com.au
Readers seeking support can contact:
- Lifeline 13 11 14
- Beyond Blue 1300 224 636