Saranne Cooke

Graphic: Saranne Cooke

Message from the Chair October 2023

Date published

23 Oct 2023

There is no doubt that our modern lives are complicated and bring tremendous stress and strain. This was even before a global pandemic triggered additional feelings of uncertainty, isolation and anxiety.

Even though life has returned to normal it is clear that we need to take greater care of our mental health. That is why events such as Mental Health Month in October are so important to put a spotlight on the importance of looking after ourselves and breaking down the stigmas that still exist around mental health.

Mental Health Month

At the Royal Flying Doctor Service our mental health services have expanded in recent years to cover the growing need. RFDS research shows that the prevalence of mental health conditions in rural and remote Australia is comparable with inner regional and major city areas, however the burden is far greater for people living in rural and remote settings.

It’s a sad reality that the rate of suicide is twice as high in remote and very remote communities compared to metropolitan centres, with farmers, young men, older people, and First Nations peoples in remote areas at the greatest risk. That is why the RFDS model of taking clinicians to those very remote areas and providing additional telehealth services is so critical.

Facing challenges like droughts, floods, bushfires and, of course, the pandemic, has taken a real toll on wellbeing and we need to make sure people are supported and have access to services.

I am very proud of the RFDS and the focus it has placed on the mental health of people in rural communities. 

Our Mental Health and Alcohol and Other Drugs team have done an incredible job integrating into communities with regular clinics, and rolling out groundbreaking programs like We’ve Got Your Back, which has trained local farmers in Far West NSW who have been through challenges themselves to become mental health ‘champions’, now equipped to support others.

However Mental Health Month is not just for those who have experienced a mental illness. It is an opportunity for all to understand the importance of good mental health and to recognise when we may need to look after ourselves and those around us.

Practising good mental health can be as simple as making sure we take time for ourselves, let go of tensions and appreciate nature.

Stay well, and thank you for your invaluable support in what has been another incredible year for the Flying Doctor.