General News Rural — 25 February 2014
Don’t link mental health to drought: MP

A federal Nationals MP believes the link between the drought and suicide has been overstated, and it would be dangerous to simply tie mental health funding to natural disasters.

But any mental health funding in the soon-to-be announced drought package would be gratefully accepted, Mark Coulton says

The western NSW MP pointed out that suicide was an ongoing issue in the bush.Durum Wheat in Farmer's Hands

“What I’m saying is that when it rains the problem doesn’t go away,” he told reporters in Canberra on Monday.

Mr Coulton, who accompanied Prime Minister Tony Abbott on his recent drought tour of western NSW, said he was cautious about linking suicide to drought.

“People are under a lot of stress, but I’ve got to say I believe it has been overstated.

“I believe there is a lot of urban myths going around.”

Farmers had been lost to suicide “when they’ve got grass in their paddock and money in the bank”.

“Just to tie mental health workers into drought I believe is quite a dangerous thing, because there’s a need there all the time.”

Alluding to the weekend death of former model and television personality Charlotte Dawson, Mr Coulton said suicide was an issue that affected communities across Australia.

“I’ve lost last year in my electorate two school-aged students to suicide and it is a big problem,” he said.

However, he took aim at parliamentarians who used rural suicides as “some sort of weapon”, and quoted statistics “plucked from thin air”.

“I’m not saying it is not a problem … but what we need is a broader look at this problem, and it is a bigger problem when there is drought.”

This article first appeared on 7 News on 24 February, 2014.

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