Positive mental health key to tackling rural climate change

By Aysha Fleming, CSIRO

Mental health has been an issue in rural areas for the past few decades. Climate change will only add more stress to the lives of rural people.

While a report by the Climate Institute shows broad scale effects of climate change on mental health are likely in the future, our research is finding that farmers in vulnerable communities are suffering already.

Early findings from our study on key drivers of change in the wine industry found mental health was already affecting farmers’ decision making and capacity to act. We surveyed 50 winegrowers from southern Australia in March and April this year and will follow up with them again during the next three years.

A mental health problem that’s happening now

Grape growers are already experiencing the emotional impacts of climate variability and the perceived risks associated with future climate change.

Some are anxious about the future or about specific weather events (such as drought). Some are depressed about the viability of the industry in the future. Some are confused about the facts of climate science and sceptical that we can make a difference.

In addition, water policy changes, a national oversupply of grapes combined with a global economic down turn and international competition are starting to take their toll on grape growers’ mental resilience.

The stress that many grape growers are under can turn into more serious mental illnesses requiring treatment, or thoughts of suicide, if the problems are not addressed and the situation continues over a long time.

The suicide rate in rural Australia is already alarming, with some reports as high as one suicide per week. Mental health is a complex problem for farmers even without the added factor of climate change. Stress over a long period as a precondition for depression is emerging in the wine industry.

Not just farmers struggle; communities need help too

Farming communities in Australia are renowned for their tough characteristics and their ability to cope with the iconic volatility of Australian weather. Rural communities are also often tight-knit and supportive. They look out for one another.

Sense of community, strong networks and social capital are often high in rural communities. However, a reliance on “being tough” can also mean that rural communities don’t seek help when they need it.

Access to GPs can be difficult in rural areas, so even those who might seek help may not find it. The internet is a major source of information about mental health symptoms and treatment, so lack of access to a computer or high speed internet can also be a barrier.

Communities are dwindling because of downsizing, relocating for work or because young people are leaving. All these can make the general mood of communities less positive.

Taking action helps farmers cope

Some farmers in the grape growing community in Southern Australia are positive about their ability to respond to climate change. Some can even see potential benefits in early action.

These farmers are already starting to act, rather than waiting for winery mandates or government initiatives.

One example is a grower installing a “sun farm” to provide an alternative source of energy and a potential income stream. Other growers are planting Spanish varieties that are more drought and heat tolerant.

These farmers can brand their grapes as “sustainably produced”. That can be very appealing to wineries.

Other farmers are relocating to properties for grape growing in cooler, wetter areas to hedge against warming and drying climate trends.

“Long term planning gives you certainty. Especially when times are tough, you need to set yourself up long term and invest in the future,” one grape grower told us.

Taking action proactively can help to allay mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Making your own decisions about how to act rather than waiting for someone else to tell you what to do can be very empowering.

Finding the actions where there are ‘win-win’ outcomes also motivates further change as the multiple benefits of action become apparent. Examples like those above work to adapt to climate conditions and add a point of difference that is appealing to markets. In other cases, reducing inputs of chemicals, fertiliser and diesel saves money and also reduces carbon emissions.

Helping farmers find and set up ways to prepare their farms for a changing climate is the best way to create a positive frame of mind. Farmers dealing positively with climate change, will make a difference to our future environment.

Aysha Fleming does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Rural Mental Health

Rural health and mental health to be discussed at the Australian Regional Development Conference.

15-16 October 2014, The Commercial Club Albury
Secretariat (T) 61 7 5502 2068 (F) 07 5527 3298
Email: secretariat@regionaldevelopment.org.au URL: www.regionaldevelopment.org.au
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Rural healthcare: have your say

Rural doctor training scheme in crisis, Grattan Institute paper reveals. The $13 million a year Medical Rural Bonded Scholarship Scheme should be phased out, a government review of health workforce programs says.

A medical scheme that was meant to boost the rural workforce has delivered just one new doctor to the bush after nine years. And doctors receiving a $16,000 taxpayer funded medical school scholarships under another rural workforce scheme are opting to work overseas to avoid their bush practice obligation.

Students who get the scholarship are meant to work for up to six years in a rural or remote area when they graduate. There are over 1200 participants in the scheme but to date fewer than 50 recipients have commenced their return of service period.

Read More News Limited Sunday September 29, 2013

The areas with the lowest GPS per head of population

  • Kimberley-Pilbara (WA)
  • Bentley-Armadale (WA)
  • Northern Territory
  • Central and NW Qld
  • Goldfields-Midwest (WA)
  • Australian Capital Territory
  • Perth North Metro
  • New England (NSW)
  • Southern NSW
  • South West WA

The  Grattan Institute has compared GP rates across Australia and found parts of Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and South East Queensland boast more than 100 doctors per 100,000 people, while some regions had less than 80.

Read more: SMH

Do you have an interest in rural healthcare and what to share your thoughts on what should be happening with other rural and regional leaders?

The Grattan Institute solutions for the rural GP shortage include creating physician assistants and increasing the responsibilities of pharmist for treatment. Also what is happening with rural medical training supervision and new regional university medical programs. Why is rural Australia not an attractive option for young doctors? We’d like to know what you are thinking…

Regional Development Australia: The Conference will feature discussions on Regional, Rural and Remote Health and Social Development. It will be held in Albury NSW on the 15 – 16 October 2014.

Rural Healthcare

Rural Healthcare

Call for papers – do you want to speak at a conference on rural healthcare?

Authors or organisations interested in submitting a paper or presenting a workshop are invited to submit an abstract of no more than 300 words outlining the aims, contents and conclusions of their paper or presentation; or about their intended role in a workshop.

Australian Regional Development Conference

RDA Conference15-16 October 2014, The Commercial Club Albury Secretariat: (T) 61 7 5502 2068 (F) 07 5527 3298 Email: secretariat@regionaldevelopment.org.au URL: www.regionaldevelopment.org.au

Rural Poverty in Australia is worse in remote regions

 

Rural poverty in Australia is worse in remote regions, a report from National Rural Health Alliance and the Australian Council of Social Service found those living in the most remote locations were the worst off.

The report, A Snapshot of Poverty in Rural and Regional Australia, revealed that people living outside major cities had lower levels of education, higher unemployment, poorer physical and mental health and less access to medical care.

Nearly one in three people live outside our major cities – in rural, regional and remote areas across Australia

Allowing for the costs of housing, poverty is slightly worse in rural, regional and remote areas (13.1 per cent ‘outside capital cities’) than in capital cities (12.6 per cent). When housing costs (which are higher in capital cities) are not taken into account, that divide becomes starker.

Poverty in rural and regional Australia has a particular set of characteristics, including:  generally lower incomes of those living in these regions; reduced access to services such as health, education and transport; declining employment opportunities; and  distance and isolation.

The report is available on the National Rural Health Alliance  website

Regional Development Australia: The Conference will feature discussions on Regional Health and Social Development. It will be held in Albury NSW on the 15 – 16 October 2014.

Call for papers

Authors or organisations interested in submitting a paper or presenting a workshop are invited to submit an abstract of no more than 300 words outlining the aims, contents and conclusions of their paper or presentation; or about their intended role in a workshop.

All proposals will be reviewed by the Conference Program Committee. Presentations will be selected to provide a program that offers a comprehensive and diverse treatment of issues related to the conference theme.

Australian Regional Development Conference

RDA Conference15-16 October 2014, The Commercial Club Albury Secretariat: (T) 61 7 5502 2068 (F) 07 5527 3298 Email: secretariat@regionaldevelopment.org.au URL: www.regionaldevelopment.org.au

 

 

Health, education and regional development top priority for Northern NSW

HEALTH, education and regional development should be the top three priorities of the new Federal Government, say respondents to a recent survey on The Northern Star’s website. Lismore Northern Star

The unscientific poll revealed a broadly pessimistic attitude about the future of the region under the new Coalition Government.

Half the respondents indicated they had voted for Labor in the recent election while almost 70% believed Tony Abbott was not an effective leader.

Six out of 10 people believed regional and rural areas would now be worse off, with 41% “very negative” about Australia’s future under the Coalition.

The environment would fare worse, said 67%, as too would health and education, said more than half.

Elsewhere in Northern NSW the picture was much the same, with 57% believing the regions would suffer under the Coalition, compared to just 27% who expected things to improve.

Almost half the online poll’s respondents were over 55 with just 13% under the age of 35. Almost 50% were in a full-time job or self-employed.

Hamish Broome,  20th Sep 2013,  Read More

Health, education and regional development will also be a top priority at the Australian Regional Development Conference, 15-16 October 2014, The Commercial Club Albury.

The conference theme is “Where to from here?” and will cover the broad areas of regional development, economic, planning, environment and community.

The conference will focus on the following themes: Environment/Sustainability; Planning/Building; Community Development; Economic Development; Infrastructure; Employment/Education; and Health Services.

Would you like to speak at the conference? Authors or organisations interested in submitting a paper or presenting a workshop are invited to submit an abstract of no more than 300 words outlining the aims, contents and conclusions of their paper or presentation; or about their intended role in a workshop.

All proposals will be reviewed by the Conference Program Committee. Presentations will be selected to provide a program that offers a comprehensive and diverse treatment of issues related to the conference theme. Authors will be notified by e-mail of the outcome of their abstract submission.

To submit an Abstract or Sponsor this conference please click on this link conference website or go to http://regionaldevelopment.org.au/