Every year in Australia suicide takes the lives of around 2100 Australians, meaning that more people take their own lives than die in road accidents and of skin cancer.
This equates to 10.2 per 100,000 people in Australia, however this figure rises in regional and remote areas of the country. According the 2010 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report ‘A snapshot of men’s health in regional and remote Australia’, males living in inner regional areas experienced death rates that were eight per cent higher than major cities, and in very remote areas 78 per cent higher.
Regional NSW newspaper The Land has taken up the cause by releasing a yearly mental health guide that it hopes will act as a mental first aid kit.
“We call it the glove box guide, so it’s something to keep in your glove box as a sort of first aid kit,” said former The Land editor Sally White.
The project started last year when the paper teamed with the Rural Adversity Mental Health Program in an attempt to dispel the stigma surrounding depression and suicide in rural communities.
“There is still a lot of concern that there is stigma around mental health and it’s pretty hard in a rural community because if you walk into a psychologists office there is a high chance in such a small community that you will run into someone outside who will ask you why you’re going in there.
“So we thought that by distributing something through The Land, it can be out on peoples kitchen tables and it’s a really non confrontational way to raise awareness and to give people a chance to think about these issues,” she said.
From there, the liftout has caused a chain reaction with not only a high level of awareness raising but people in the community coming forward with their own stories.
“One of the stories that resonated most from last year was a father and son who both had experienced depression and they shared their stories. This year we asked them to write the forward for this year’s mental health guide and they told us that they still get people coming up to them and who opened up to them about their problems.”
The project is now in its second year and has sparked an array of other initiatives that the paper hopes will encourage those to speak up about their mental health issues.
“We have started monthly forums online, each month we chose a different topic so one month it may be post natal depression and the next it may be coping with anxiety.
“We’re also doing a monthly mental health page also in association with NSW farmers. So from this one liftout it’s turned into this ongoing presence in The Land.”