Homestead visits key to mental health success in rural Queensland

Tammy and Barry Hughes are using Georgetown's in-home counselling service to help them cope with the breakdown of their succession plans. (ABC Rural)

Not everyone wants to see a doctor when they're feeling down, let alone a psychologist.

But, it seems one service in north Queensland is finding a way help to rural families struggling through drought.

Cairns-based psychologist Crispian Jones travels to stations surrounding Georgetown and Croydon for one week every month, to offer free counselling to graziers at their kitchen tables and back verandas.

Mr Jones says sessions inside the home help grazing families keep their access to counselling services private, which is often difficult in rural communities.

"It preserves their confidentiality much more than it would if I was working from town, because in small towns people see what people are doing," he said.

"People are more comfortable in their homes and they haven't got, in some cases, a three or four hour drive to get to a clinic, and they're not likely to do that."

He says families in the bush are trying to cope with a number of stresses as the rural debt crisis and drought continue.

"I'm doing a fair bit of marriage counselling or couples counselling, I'm seeing depression, anxiety, a lot of frustration and a lot of failure too," he said.

"For some of them where the banks are about to foreclose, and I'm aware of a couple of those, the sense of failure is resting really heavily, particularly on the males in the family, because he's the one who might lose the farm after it having been in the family for generations."

Georgetown grazier Tammy Hughes, says her situation was 'one of distress' when she asked Crispian to pay her a visit at North Head Station.

"Being a healthy person I probably would not go to the hospital for assistance or for help," she explained.

Mrs Hughes and her husband Barry, chair of the Gulf Cattlemen's Association, are more than halfway through a 10 year plan to hand North Head station to the next generation.

After battling bushfires and drought, the pair are now coming to terms with the prospect watching their children, and successors, leave the property to find work.

"My kids have grown up here and done distance [education] through to senior school, and to have to turn them away is quite massive," she says, wiping away a tear.

"You've done succession planning because you're getting to the age where your children will slowly progress into your role and then you can take that step backwards and let them in.

"That's virtually been taken away from us."

Mrs Hughes says she was cautious of Mr Jones when he made his first visit to North Head Station.

Now she's urging others to make the most of his free service while they still can.

"It was so wonderful to have somebody outside your family and friends circle that you could talk to without having to hold back because you didn't want to offend somebody or it was too emotional."

The door-to-door counselling service has funding to continue until July 2015 through Far North Queensland Medicare Local...

Read more by Hailey Renault, ABC Rural 19 December 2014

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