Bridging the rural-urban divide for improved mental health

The devaluing of rural Australia as an important contributor to Australia’s social and economic fabric, and the declining profitability of core industries in rural Australia, including an absence of understanding and support for these industries by metropolitan communities and governments, have been identified among the many complex factors attributed to the causation of the high rate of suicide in rural Australia. (SPA Position Statement - Responding to suicide in rural Australia 2008).

Farmers will tell you they want a dynamic, innovative, exciting, profitable and sustainable agrifood sector that attracts the best and brightest of the next generation, but farmers in Australia today are less than 1% of the population and the future of the farming sector in Australia is uncertain. Australia has developed sophisticated supply chains to supply our cities with fresh, affordable, ethically produced food and fibre but farmers have become victims of their own success - we have a food ‘value’ chain with farmers down one end and consumers at the other.

Farmers are feeling demoralised and physically pushed to the limit by the supermarket prices wars, animal welfare campaigns, a booming mining sector competing for land use, lack of a national food security plan and out-of-touch government policy. Our farmers are questioning why they bother to farm in this hostile environment.

Ms Fairleigh's workshop will explore current research on farmers, mental health and suicide; programs addressing the rural-urban divide; how improved understanding impacts positively on farmer mental health; and how to create a community which is informed about, and engaged with, agriculture and rural Australia.

Alison Fairleigh, Rural Development Officer, Mental Illness Fellowship of North Queensland will present a workshop at the:

4th Australian Rural and Remote Mental Health Symposium to be held on the 19 - 21 November 2012, Adelaide, South Australia.

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