An opinion piece by CSSA CEO, Marcelle Mogg. Jack, a farmer in western Queensland, has been under financial pressure for many years now, thanks to the drought. The unrelenting stress and anxiety about the future are putting strain on his marriage and his family. He works very long days and is isolated from extended family and friends. Who can he turn to? Simon, another man on the land, is struggling under the weight of grief following an accident that killed a member of his family. He’s having trouble talking to his wife who is also grieving, and the whole situation is making it hard to deal with the daily challenges of running his large dairy farm. Who can help before it gets to a crisis situation? Up until June 30, both of these men were able to access tailored community mental health, and family and relationship counselling services that were established two years ago to support drought affected communities. Catholic Social Services Australia (CSSA) members are among the providers who have been delivering these services, often one-on-one, usually by visiting people on their properties over a period of time, at their request, or through a community event setting, such as men’s sheds, afternoon teas, or stands at agricultural shows. However, in a blow to rural communities, the 2016-17 Federal Budget ended the ongoing funding for these crucial, and successful, services. So, from July 1, these vital, on-the-ground mental health services ceased.
In light of a government decision to not renew funding for community mental health and family and relationship counselling services programme in drought affected communities, CSSA has developed a Rural Community Resilience Programme. This programme, drawing on the success of the earlier model, enables counsellors to go into rural and remote communities and extend mental health, family and relationship support to people in their homes, on their stations, and at community events.