General News — 21 November 2012
Suicide too common in rural towns: report

Suicide rates in remote parts of Australia remain disproportionately high, with farmers and young men particularly vulnerable, a report shows.

In one tragic snapshot, men living in remote Queensland areas were 2.6 times more likely to die by suicide than their counterparts in metropolitan areas.

The Suicide in Rural and Remote Areas of Australia report says isolated communities will face an increasing burden of suicide unless more resources are directed to those most at risk.

While no one explanation is offered, environmental factors such as droughts and floods, coupled with economic hardship, are blamed for contributing to the high rate of self harm in remote towns.

Mental Health Minister Mark Butler said vulnerable communities needed targeted assistance to help them with the specific hardships they faced.

“There is always the scope for greater levels of assistance,” Mr Butler told Sky News on Tuesday.

“We’re constantly learning and constantly refining the support we give to affected communities.”

Women in regional communities are also at greater risk than those living in cities, while indigenous populations were significantly overrepresented.

One study in the report claimed suicide rates in recent years had increased 12-fold in towns with fewer than 4000 people, with males aged 15-24 years most at risk.

For agricultural workers, the stress of running a property in the face of unpredictable environmental conditions can lead to mental illness, the report says.

Mr Butler said it’s important current and comprehensive research is available to help inform the mental health initiatives being rolled out in remote communities.

The report recommended providing greater support to those dealing with financial stress on farms and addressing the lifestyle risks unique to remote communities such as drug and alcohol problems.

Training certain members of a community to offer local treatment and referral services to their neighbours could also prove highly effective, the report suggested.

As first appeared in Courier Mail, 20 November 2012

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