Beating 'dry' depression

A FREE, two-day mental health first aid course in Yamba next week will help people deal with mental health issues that may be caused by the ongoing drought.

Drought co-ordinator for North Coast Area Health Service Warren Shaw said the course was for everybody associated with the NSW farming industry, whether they were farmers, service providers or businesses.

He said it was important for people to realise depression could affect anyone, and farmers stressed by financial hardship could sometimes benefit from help in the community.

Mr Shaw said depression was a risk factor for suicide, especially for young men, so it was important to seek help when needed.

"People shouldn't feel ashamed to ask for help and being concerned about your mental health is not a sign of weakness.

"We know farmers are practical people who are used to solving problems, but if you're stressed or feeling down for a long period of time, this could be a risk factor for depression," he said. "We also know that mental health problems can occur even when things are going well. The important thing to remember is the sooner you get the right help, the sooner you're on the road to recovery."

The course will provide information on how to identify common signs and symptoms of mental health problems, and give advice on how to provide assistance to someone who may be affected.

It will also give information on where help is available in the community, and how to access it for themselves or someone else.

"We don't expect people to become instant mental health experts who'll be called on to deal with a crisis," Mr Shaw said.

"We just hope the course will make people feel more confident about knowing what to say and do if they think someone is having a tough time." Funded by NSW Health through the Government's Drought Mental Health Assistance Package, the course is part of a co-ordinated approach to provide assistance to country people facing tough times as a result of the drought.

A Rural Mental Health Support Line, staffed by qualified mental health professionals, has also been set-up to provide people living in rural areas with confidential advice and referral around the clock. It is a free call and the number is 1800 201 123 For information about depression, anxiety, related drug and alcohol problems and available treatments and support services you can also go to www.beyondblue.org.au or call 1300 22 4636.



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