From viral videos to bright work shirts and fundraising events, there has been no shortage of initiatives to raise the profile of mental health in recent years.
- Agronomist Brendan Magee has been wearing bright shirts to work to encourage mental health conversations
- He hopes more farmers will discuss the issue amid the string of disasters in recent years
- Doctors say initiatives are working and more people are opening up
Regional Australians have been some of the most willing participants in these campaigns with droughts, floods, bushfires and COVID-19 creating concern for some of the country’s most isolated residents.
Beaudesert-based agronomist Brendan Magee has joined the trend, encouraging his colleagues and customers to don bright coloured work shirts on Mondays and start the important conversation when they are asked why they were wearing them.
“Growing up in the ’90s, in the droughts of central Queensland, it’s hard,” Mr Magee said.
Mr Magee said he hoped initiatives like Mental Health Mondays went beyond being token gestures and actually empowered people in rural areas to reach out.
“It’s mind-blowing that a farmer, who is very casual, is probably more at risk than an investment banker who looks like he is stressed,” he said.
Initiatives paying off
Royal Flying Doctor Service clinical councillor Alex Donoghue has been on the coal face of rural mental health for decades, driving from property to property offering support to farmers.
She said the pendulum was starting to swing and patients were speaking up.
“We’ve gone from really having to lobby hard to seeing more and more people coming forward,” she said.
“Talking creates awareness, awareness creates people taking responsibility, and people taking responsibility creates better mental health outcomes.”
Check-ups still a battle
Despite people from the country picking up the message, Rural Doctors Association of Queensland foundation chair Dan Halliday said it was a still a battle to get people to have general check-ups.
The organisation runs a stall at the Beef Australia event in Rockhampton that offers free checks.
“With the significant drought issues, bushfires and rebuilding initiatives, people have actually struggled to get in to see their health care practitioners,” Dr Halliday said.
Dr Halliday said although it was a challenge to have people from the land checked, they were more inclined to open up about mental health when they were.
“The wider acceptance and mainstream media support of that awareness for mental health issues have enabled people to feel more comfortable having those discussions,” he said.