Talk to a mate: rural health workers target mental health and wellbeing

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Not-for-profit organisation RAW Tasmania supports rural communities in their hardest times

Rural Alive and Well (RAW) are encouraging farmers and others in rural communities to speak up about the problems they may be experiencing.

RAW Tasmania chief executive Danial Rochford said he was concerned about the increasing number of people coming to the organisation with depression, financial concerns and other mental health issues.

“In the past 12 months we’ve seen unprecedented increases in new clients coming to our organisation and it doesn’t take too much to think why that is: unseasonal dire conditions, financial pressure being placed on farmers," he said.

 “There are subsequent effects of this, we are seeing marriage breakdowns and increased drug usage and that’s certainly a very concerning trend."

RAW has 10 outreach workers that cover different areas of Tasmania, including King and Flinders Islands.

“How we work is we go farm to farm talking to farmers and people in rural communities to check in on how they are travelling mentally and emotionally and, if there are any issues, we are able to link them up to support services that are out there,” Mr Rochford said.

Agfest is an integral event for RAW as they are able to talk to those that they already work with and meet anyone else in the rural community who might need support.

The not-for-profit organisation began about eight years ago when there was a lot of concern around the mental health of male farmers during the drought, especially in the Southern Midlands and Central Highlands regions.

RAW had very humble beginnings with just one outreach worker going from farm to farm, but today they have more than many outreach workers visiting more than 2000 clients .

Outreach Worker Martin Howell said the free service has no long waiting time and support is provided in homes.

“We support them where they are at, where they have been in life and where they would like to go to,” he said.

He said RAW aims to get people talking about their issues and to remember that there is assistance out there.

“If there are people out there that might not be doing as well the best thing you can do for a friend is give RAW a call on 1300 HELP MATE and tell us and we will go and have a chat to them,” he said.

Rural Alive and Well are located at site 303 on Third Avenue.