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#JamesDonaldson on #MentalHealth – #Suicide Rates Rise With Remoteness, And #Rural #Men, #Youth, Elderly Most At Risk

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By Bridget Murphy

A man leaning on a fencepost looking over a rural vista.
Research shows that #suicide rates increase the further a person lives from the nearest town or city.

A person’s risk of #suicide increases the further they live from a city, according to new research into rural #mentalhealth and #suicide. 

Key points:

  • #Suicide rates in rural and remote #Australia are higher than in metropolitan areas
  • The report shows that #men, older #Australians and young people are at higher risk
  • Researchers say the trend may be attributable to lower instances of seeking diagnoses and treatment

The report, released by the University of Newcastle’s Centre for Rural and Remote #MentalHealth, also shows a person’s chance of seeking help gets lower the more remotely they live.

“The #suicide rate of 12.7 deaths per 100,000 persons was 11 per cent higher than the national rate and increased with remoteness,” it says.

“Reported diagnoses of #mentalillness decreased with remoteness, as did treatment for #mentalillness — particularly in #men.”

The centre’s director, Professor David Perkins, said the factors that could contribute to #rural suicides were often misunderstood.

“The fact that someone dies by #suicide does not mean that they are necessarily mentally ill,” he said.

“It may be just that life has become all too hard and too difficult.”

Silhouette of a man with a farmer sprayer.
The lack of access to specialists and a sense of “#rural stoicism” have an impact on high #suicide rates.

Professor Perkins, along with other researchers, investigated more than 3,000 cases of #rural suicides in New South Wales, Queensland, South #Australia and Tasmania.

He said some groups within #ruralcommunities were particularly at risk.

“One group is people in manual trade-type occupations — labourers, drivers, people perhaps who have fewer opportunities than people who have had a longer time in education,” Professor Perkins said.

Silhouette of a man driving a vehicle.
#Rural #men in particular are urged to seek #mentalhealth help in times of adversity.

“[Other groups at risk] are the young people making their way in life, the 15 to 24s.

“And also the older people between 75 and 84, who are a group which are perhaps experiencing major life changes like the loss of a partner, the inability to continue to work on the farm perhaps, or to run their own business.”

Rural stoicism can be harmful

Professor Perkins said that recent stresses affecting people in rural #Australia — including drought, fires, floods and the mouse plague — had challenged the “rural stoicism” that was often seen in remote areas.

“So we do also have a serious set of challenges about, particularly, linking people in rural areas to specialist services like #psychologists, #psychiatrists and other sorts of services,” he said.

“In towns of about 1,000 people it may even be difficult to just find a GP.”

Kate Arndell from the #Rural Adversity #MentalHealthProgram said it could be tough for people in rural #Australia to reach out for help.

“[Rural people] are waiting longer, until they are becoming more unwell, before they’re accessing that help,” she said.

“There’s also still lots of #stigma around #mentalhealth and accessing that help, and those traditional ideas around being stoic.

“[It’s that thought of], ‘My grandfather did this so I should be able to do it too’.”

Generic doctor and patient consultation
Some rural Australians struggle to access #mentalhealth support.

The Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister for #mentalhealth and #suicideprevention, David Coleman, said the government was acutely aware of the high rates of rural #suicide and would be rolling out measures to respond.

“Telehealth has been really important, because obviously accessing that support face-to-face can be more difficult,” he said.

“We’re also investing very heavily in new treatment centres, so we’re putting about half a billion dollars into a new network of adult #mentalhealthcenters called Head To Health.

“We’ll ensure that a significant proportion of those will be based in rural and regional locations.”

#JamesDonaldson notes:

Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for #mentalhealthawarenessandsuicideprevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students and student-athletes.

Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is one of my passions. Us men need to not suffer in silence or drown our sorrows in alcohol, hang out at bars and strip joints, or get involved with drug use.

Having gone through a recent bout of #depression and #suicidalthoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space.  #http://bit.ly/JamesMentalHealthArticle

Keeping an eye on mates

With #rural and remote communities often being exceptionally tight-knit in nature, breaking down #stigma and talking about #mentalhealth is essential to driving down #suicide rates.

“A lot of the talk after a #suicide is that people didn’t see it coming,” Ms Arndell said.

“However, this research shows us that we know, in fact, that 22 per cent of people in the six weeks before they died by #suicide did access a health service at some point.”

Keeping an eye on mates
Keeping an eye on mates is key to preventing #suicide in rural Australia.

Ms Arndell said there were some key warning signs of #suicide to watch out for in #ruralcommunities.

“You might notice that they’re withdrawing from usual activities, so from work or from hobbies,” she said.

“They might be thinking or speaking about #suicide or death or dying, or speaking about #hopelessness or worthlessness.

“You might notice a change in personality or appearance, and possibly an increase in drugs and alcohol use and risky #behaviours.”

Ms Arndell said there was one essential #behaviour that held the power to prevent a death.

“It’s really, really crucial that people take a deep breath and ask the question ‘Are you okay?’,” she said.

Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh on Pexels.com
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