According to BeyondBlue it is well recognised that farming is a physically and psychologically-demanding occupation. In Australia, farming is now characterised by high rates of stress, injury and suicide. Understanding and developing interventions to promote mental health in farming communities is a matter of urgency.
In January 2016 Lions International agreed to fund a mental health pilot program aimed at providing mental health support to drought affected rural farmers in Australia. In conjunction with the well established charity organization, Aussie Helpers, founded by Senior Australian of the Year Brian Egan, an innovative mental health strategy was launched in conjunction with Virtual Psychologist. This service aims to offer psychological support and psycho education to drought affected farmers in remote areas via sms, email, phone, online chat and where required, face to face counseling on farming properties. Furthermore mental health training and support is provided to all Aussie Helper volunteers who visit the rural farmers. Where relevant, the local community based services are linked in to this service.
By using a range of innovative forms of communication such as SMS, online chat, telephone and email the service is providing flexibility, convenience, affordability and access to highly qualified professionals who understand the demands and pressures on drought affected rural farmers. In a first of its kind, SMS will be trialed in Australia as an effective form of communication for farmers who are time poor, require time to digest information and who initially want a certain level of “distance” from the treating professional. Telephone and face to face will always be the preferred method of support.
The program is serviced by qualified psychologists and mental health professionals who have years of experience in the field of mental health and have a connection to the farming community. All of our team have either worked with the farming community directly or have grown up in rural areas themselves.
Virtual Psychologist staff work closely with Aussie Helpers to support remote drought affected farmers who may be struggling with mental health issues. We can be called upon night or day via sms, email, telephone and online chat to provide psychological support or just a friendly ear. Issues such as anxiety, depression, suicide, alcohol and drugs, domestic violence, grief and loss, relationship breakdowns, anger, parenting, financial worries and family conflict are all covered.
Virtual Psychologist is not a registered charity organisation. If you would like to donate to Australian farmers please visit the Aussie Helpers website.