Rural — 13 February 2014

A group of agricultural professionals concerned about the welfare of their clients has heard that drought does not cause depression.

More than two dozen bankers, stock agents, government staff, and vets taking part in a mental health workshop also heard that talking about suicide doesn’t lead to more people taking their own lives.

The participants gathered in Inverell, in drought-affected northern NSW, to learn how to recognise and help others who may be experiencing mental health problems or who may be at risk of suicide.

The workshops were convened by Meg Perceval from the Centre for Rural & Remote Health’s Farm-Link project who says, while drought could be a catalyst for mental illness, there would be other underlying causal factors.Durum Wheat in Farmer's Hands

“It’s estimated that about 90 per cent of people who die by suicide would have been experiencing a mental illness at the time of their death.”

“Mental illness will happen regardless of external circumstances,” says Ms Perceval.

“Even in the best season ever people can still get depression and, even in the worst season ever, people can still do things to look after their own health.”

She admits that the subject of suicide can be confronting for many.

“Some people are really challenged by the word ‘suicide’ and that’s fair enough.

“But it is what it is.”

Ms Perceval says the media has a responsibility to report the subject responsibly and to educate the public.

“People want to be able to talk about it but we have to do it sensitively.

“I don’t think suicide is a dirty word.

“There is help available and farmers are not alone.

“In terms of mental illness, it’s very common.

“It’s so common it’s almost normal.”

This article first appeared on ABC News on 12 February, 2014.


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