Outback rain brings rejuvenation of land and spirit

Sarak Elks From: The Australian November 13, 2010 12:00AM

During the decade-long drought, there were anecdotal reports of rates of depression and suicide among those on the land rising, deepening the divide between those in the city and the bush.

Figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare show that 14 out of every 100,000 men in metropolitan areas die by suicide compared with 18 out of every 100,000 in rural areas and 27 out of every 100,000 in very remote areas.

While mental health problems do not exist only in drought, Mr McNicholl said many on the land had an emotional connection to their properties. “For men on most farms, the visual impact of drought has a very negative effect,” he said. “It’s a peculiarly rural phenomenon. The landscape dies, and you die with the landscape. Your spirit dies with your cattle and your crops.”

“Your will to fight, your will to live, to get up in the morning, is sapped away.”

Mr McNicholl said those struggling with depression in rural and remote areas often had to travel for several hours to access professional help. In small towns, men often found support and solace in the tight-knit community of a sporting team.