A large scale study was conducted to check the state of mental health issues in rural NSW. The results revealed that nearly half of them were suffering from a serious mental health issue and were not seeking professional help.

Many problems like unemployment, disability and social isolation also lead to mental issues in the bush as the study suggested. An Australian rural mental health cohort study of more than 2600 people was conducted. The results showed that as a group 29 percent health workers had mental health issues and 34 percent farmers had mental health issues. These results showed that both groups were equally prone to mental health conditions. But 69 percent of those who were unemployed and 57 percent of those who are permanently unable to work had the highest incidence of a probable mental disorder.

Associate Professor David Perkins, director of the Broken Hill Centre for Remote Health Research is also one of the authors of this study. He said that while past efforts have been focused on farming communities these people “without a voice” that are socially isolated because of disability or unemployment need some attention too.

Dr. Perkins also said that newcomers who move to rural areas are more prone to develop problems like alcoholism when compared to old residents. He attributed this connection with the lack of a healthy friendship network in the new area.

He observed that people with less social connections are more prone to develop mental health problems. People especially in their mid teens are more likely to commit suicide as a result of these severe mental health problems. He further added that social media can serve to be a good communication tool. Dr. Perkins said, ‘If it really is the case that Facebook connectedness and social media provide meaningful relationships for people, one would want to promote those.”

He also highlighted the problem of a high number of rural health workers with mental health problems. He mentioned that this is due to the difficulty faced when attracting rural health workers to the country side and then making them stay there.

Dr. Perkin pointed out that for most people in these areas; their local GP is the only health worker available to them. The survey also reveals that amongst the individuals in great need for health care, 47 per cent have not been able to speak to a health professional in the past year.

photo credit: Rossco ( Image Focus Australia )

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