Graphic: RFDS Drought Wellbeing Serice
Since April 2015 RFDS (Queensland Section) has been providing the Drought Wellbeing Service (DWS) across Queensland. The aim of this service is to improve the mental health and wellbeing of adults and young people living and working in drought declared regions. Drought Wellbeing Service Coordinator, Gail Jamieson explains.
The challenges of living and working in the bush are wide-ranging, and new problems can present themselves from week to week, season to season and year to year. Rural Queenslanders are used to hearing words like "resilient" or "determined" to describe how they deal with these challenges. But sometimes, a series of ongoing hurdles can make it difficult to get back on your horse, and it's easy to feel like the wheels have fallen off your wagon.
Feeling sad or stressed is understandable in these circumstances, but too much of either, or both, can have a negative impact on your mental and physical health, and the health of those around you.
When added to geographical and social isolation; lack of support due to family and friends being too far away to help; and little or no access to mental health services, problems can quickly escalate.
Graphic: RFDS Drought Wellbeing Service
It's all too easy when discussing mental health in rural areas to focus on suicide rates and alarming statistics, when mental health and wellbeing is about so much more. It's about recognising that sad is normal; stress is normal; finding life tough is normal. But too much can affect you in many physical and psychological ways, from trouble sleeping, to feeling anxious, to depressive thoughts. That's where the Drought Wellbeing Service helps.
Our Drought Wellbeing Service has a team of Mental Health Clinicians and Community Engagement Coordinators operating across drought-declared parts of North West, Central West and South West Queensland. We also operate in areas around Cairns and Hinterland, Townsville, Wide Bay and the Darling Downs.
The service is free, and offers counselling and support services as well as providing mental health education to individuals, groups and workplaces. With as much as 87% of the state being drought declared at any one time since the service started, covering an area of this size does present challenges. Our response to this is to focus resources on rural and remote areas with little or no access to other mental health services.
Our DWS Mental Health Clinicians work alongside existing RFDS Clinicians, attending primary health care clinics across the state, and traveling to remote communities by air or by land. Our clinicians can meet with clients face to face, over the phone, or via telehealth sessions. They can provide strategies for coping during tough times or simply lend an ear to listen to wellbeing concerns.
Mental Health Promotion is an important part of the service, with our team travelling across the state during the past 12 months to provide talks, presentations, and training to Shire’s, forums and organisations. DWS have organised Pit stop Health Checks and Health Information Stalls at numerous cattle stations and events across the regions, and are always keen to hear from rural and remote communities which might benefit from their workshops and events.