In April 2015, the RFDS was tasked with delivering wellbeing support into rural communities impacted by one of the worst droughts in decades. Drought Wellbeing Service Coordinator, Allira Power explains how the service has been received and what comes next for those hit hardest.
Introducing new clinicians into rural communities where stigma around mental health has often resulted in poor uptake of services, and given that the RFDS was known predominantly an an aeromedical service, some resistance to engagement and accessing this new program was anticipated.
We were wrong.
During the 18 months since its inception, the Drought Wellbeing Service (DWS) has been welcomed into the homes and workplaces of people in these communities, offering support and education to those affected by drought, including the hidden, and often unspoken stressors of living on the land.
Graphic: Drought wellbeing
DWS has provided support, counselling and education to individuals and groups, in workplaces and to the broader community, while working alongside RFDS primary health clinics. Education as well as practical, and protective, strategies have been provided on a range topics including better sleep practices, stress management techniques, and strategies about how to approach and support family, friends, or workmates who are doing it tough to assist in building individual and community resilience.
In recent months, rain started to fall. As the land slowly recovers, rivers flow and dams fill, we have witnessed relief and hope for those living and working on the land. But the quiet wisdom of the bush warns us that all the stress isn't washed away with a few good showers of rain.
Rural communities and the people living on the tough land in western Queensland are some of the most resilient and resourceful people anyone will ever meet. But even the toughest men and women, like the toughest land, needs time to recover and rebuild.
Yes the drought may have passed for the moment, but this only means a time to rebuild depleted resources, prepare the soil, and hearts and minds, for the next season. And like the farmers and graziers and people living in rural and remote Queensland, together we are learning from the wisdom of the land, that mental health also has its seasons, and now is the time to prepare and cultivate, ready for the next tough times ahead.