The University of Newcastle, Australia

People in rural and remote Australia are 50 percent more likely to die by suicide than those living in our major cities. University of Newcastle experts are developing tailored intervention programs designed to change that.

The rate of suicide in rural Australia is growing more rapidly than that of our cities – and the more remote the community, the higher the suicide rate.

Suicide among young Australian men in rural and remote areas is estimated to occur at almost twice the rate as metropolitan areas.

For young Indigenous males and females in remote communities, suicide rates may but up to six times higher compared to other Australians.1

Rural residents also face unique stresses such as droughts, floods and bushfires which can lead to a lack of control over their own economic security.

Those who do reach out for professional help often find it isn’t easy to come by. Communities outside large regional centres often face a shortage of resident medical and allied health specialists such as psychiatrists, psychologists and mental health nurses.2

1. National Rural Health Alliance Inc., Suicide in rural Australia, May 2009
2. Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health., Rural Suicide and its Prevention, December 2017

Building evidence for rural and remote needs

Unconvinced by the assumption that data about metropolitan mental health and suicide is ‘good enough’ for rural residents, university researchers are studying the phenomenon of rural suicide and suicide-related behaviours. They’re also developing Australian-first programs designed to reduce suicide rates among targeted community groups.

Based in Orange, NSW, the Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health is a $19 million partnership between the University of Newcastle and NSW Health.

In one of its flagship research programs, the Centre led the Australian Rural Mental Health Study – a longitudinal study of 1,800 households across rural and remote NSW that focuses on the determinants of mental health as influenced by individual, family and community factors.

Using data collected over a five-year period, this unique study continues to inform a range of programs developed by the Centre.

Rural Adversity Mental Health Program

The Rural Adversity Mental Health Program is the first dedicated frontline rural and remote mental health program in Australia. It has helped more than 8,000 people in rural and remote communities connect with mental health support services since 2016.

The program has also trained more than 30,500 individuals to recognise and support someone who may be struggling with their mental health.

We-Yarn

With Indigenous suicide rates double that of non-Indigenous people, the Centre developed the first suicide prevention program to be delivered ‘on country’.It has trained more than 360 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in suicide prevention as part of its ‘We-Yarn’ program.

You Got This Mate

Australian men are three times more likely to die by suicide than women, and in remote parts of Queensland, farmers suicide at five times the rate of non-farmers.

Traditional ideas of masculinity and a lingering stigma around mental health – particularly in rural communities – means that men are less likely to tell others how they feel or reach out for support.

‘You Got This Mate’ is a dedicated website for rural men which provides action-focussed tips to help them achieve their best possible mental health.

Designed in consultation with the Centre’s Rural Men’s Resource Advisory Group, the website uses specially developed content and imagery to engage a rural male audience.

Let’s Talk Rural Mental Health

Topics for the ‘Let’s Talk Rural Mental Health’ podcast are developed in consultation with 19 coordinators from the Centre’s Rural Adversity Mental Health Program. These coordinators live and work in rural communities, and their input – along with advice from community and industry partners – has shaped this award-winning program.

More than 10,000 people have downloaded the podcast since 2016, which covers topics such as homelessness, alcohol awareness and concepts of masculinity. Downloadable fact sheets are also available on the Centre website.

How Are You Going?

With 50 percent of mental health problems established by age 14, the Centre partnered with ReachOut Australia to develop an online mental health quiz designed for young people.

The quiz is based on the Centre’s ‘How Are You Going’ resource and helps young people track how they’re feeling while also giving them practical steps to take if they need extra support.

Nearly 40,000 people have taken the quiz over the past three years

The Glove Box Guide to Mental Health

Developed in partnership with The Land newspaper, the ‘The Glove Box Guide to Mental Health’ series is reaching more than 125,000 readers in NSW and beyond each year.

In a 2017 survey, 96 percent of respondents indicated they would recommend the guide to family and friends, and 89 percent felt the guide encourages rural people talk more openly about mental health issues.

“I was then able to read [the Guide] in private and use info to connect with health professionals. Thank you.” – Survey respondent

The impact of the Centre’s work has been recognised with a suite of awards, including:

  • 2019: Winner of the Mental Health Foundation of Australia Organisation of the Year award
  • 2019: Winner of the Mental Health Services Learning Network’s medal for outstanding contribution to mental health services (Glove Box Guide to Mental Health series)
  • 2019: Finalist in the Australian Podcast Awards (Diversity category) for its Let’s Talk Rural Mental Health podcast series
  • 2018: Winner of the Mental Health Services Learning Network Special Media Award for Let’s Talk Rural Mental Health podcast series
  • 2017: Recipient of the Mental Health Matters Certificate of Commendation for Excellence in Service Delivery (Rural Adversity Mental Health Program)

Download the case study (PDF, 1.2MB)

More information:

Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health

crrmh@newcastle.edu.au

02 6363 8444

Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health

Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health

The rate of suicide in rural Australia is growing more rapidly than that of our cities – and the more remote the community, the higher the suicide rate.

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