New figures from the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) show that 100% of New South Wales is in drought.
With no relief from rain in sight, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) is urging drought affected communities to care for their mental health in this time of crisis.
RANZCP President, Dr Kym Jenkins, said that while all of Australia waits and hopes for rain farming communities need to take steps to prioritise their personal wellbeing and seek mental health support if required.
‘Sometimes the stress and worry can be overwhelming’, said Dr Jenkins, ‘and it’s so important that those struggling in times like this feel able to speak up and seek help.’
‘Telehealth psychiatric and psychological services can be a lifeline, and recent federal government changes to the number of Medicare-supported telehealth sessions accessible to people in rural and remote areas will make it easier to get help in even the most remote communities,’ she said.
Psychiatrist Warren Kealy-Bateman works in rural north western NSW and comes from a proud farming family. He said that while there is a sense of helplessness and loss in some communities, there is also a great deal of strength and hope.
‘My grandparents were farmers and I keep thinking of my grandfather and how he would have coped amid this drought. He was a worrier. I’m seeing patients who can’t destock while prices are low, whose animals are suffering and who cannot let go. They feel their world is coming to an end.
‘As a psychiatrist it is heartbreaking, but I keep in mind that rain will come. We have a huge range of resources across NSW to assist people, and are quickly finding ways to make connections to provide the care needed. I am most proud of my communities in Walgett, Dubbo, Coonamble, Wellington and regions pulling together at this extremely difficult time,’ Dr Kealy-Bateman said.
RANZCP NSW Branch Chair, Dr Angelo Virgona, agreed that in times of crisis, it is critical for communities to look after each other, in part by urging each other to overcome any resistance to reaching out for help from medical and other professional help. He urged Governments, at all levels, to ensure that all affected folk were made aware of how to access the available resources.
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The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists is a membership organisation that prepares medical specialists in the field of psychiatry, supports and enhances clinical practice, advocates for people affected by mental illness and advises governments on mental health care. For information about our work, our members or our history, visit www.ranzcp.org.
If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or www.lifeline.org.au or the Suicide Callback Service on 1300 659 467 or www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au.