The fleece and cattle judging at the Royal Hobart Show are important events for rural people but tucked between the livestock and farm machinery is an equally important display from an organisation being overwhelmed with demand for help.
Rural Alive and Well or RAW provides mental health and suicide prevention services to people living outside Tasmania’s city centres.
“We have seen an increase in mental health issues, particularly in men but also in families in rural Tasmania, ” said Martin Howell from RAW
“The demand on our services has increased over time.
“Initally we supported families with food parcels, but that has grown with Rural, Alive and Well meeting other needs for families.”
Those other needs include providing transport to appointments, and helping with accounts.
“We look at where a family has been, where they are now, and how they are physically and emotionally, and what it is that the families need to address this crisis that they might be in, and move forward in a positive and healthy way.”
RAW has attended all of Tasmania’s agricultural shows this year and its staff have noticed a drop in country people attending at the same time that demand for its help is going up.
RAW believes it is having positive results in its most important area of suicide prevention.
“We operate a 24 hour, 7 day a week response service where we have a worker on call all the time and we have had many calls over the last year of people seeking our support in a crisis that they may be experiencing, so the depression and mental health have risen but I think that’s also in response to RAW now being statewide but we’ve had a significant drop in the suicide rate of our clients.”
RAW is holding a fundraising event at the Hobart Show today.
This article first appeared on ABC Online on 25 October, 2013.