Beyondblue funds program to reduce regional suicide stigma

MATTHEW WOTHERSPOON

Regional farmers are being encouraged to join an online program called The Ripple Effect, in a bid to reduce the stigma of suicide in regional farming communities.

The initiative aims to reduce suicide stigma by allowing farmers to connect with other farmers and by giving people in isolation an anonymous platform to express their emotions.

The program requires users to complete question modules, and as they progress are sent postcard and video messages from people or farmers who have gone through periods of obsessive suicidal thoughts.

Directors of the program have said the study, which is aimed at men aged between 30-64, will hopefully gain greater insight into the attitudes men in rural areas have towards themselves.

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The postcards feature inspiring and touching messages from those who have been affected by suicide. Photo: The Ripple Effect

Research Fellow for The National Centre for Farmer Health, Dr Alison Kennedy stated in a media release that the initiative will hopefully change the attitudes people experiencing suicide ideation (suicidal thoughts) have towards themselves.

“Too often, people feel isolated, shamed or guilt after an experience of suicide and can’t bring themselves to ask for support, even when they want to,” Dr Kennedy said.

“They think other people will think less of them if they do seek support. We want to turn this around by people more effectively supporting each other and reduce the numbers of rural suicides.”

The Australian Institute of Suicide Research and Prevention has reported that the rate of suicide incidents amongst farmers and agricultural workers in Queensland is 2.2 times higher than the national average.

2013 RIRDC QLD Rural Woman of the Year and member of the Qld Alliance for Mental Health, Alison Fairleigh said the the stigma associated with men talking about their feelings contributes largely to higher suicide rates in regional male farmers.

“One of the reasons there are excessively high suicide rates in regional communities is because there’s a very strong sense of male stoicism, so they’ll give help but don’t feel comfortable seeking help,” Mrs Fairleigh said.

“These are small areas, and people don’t want to feel the stigma that might be associated with talking about living with mental illness.”

“Another reason for these statistics is rural areas often have much less access to support networks, which increases the risk of mental illness, particularly depression and anxiety.”

The Ripple Effect is an important initiative set out by beyondblue to break the stigma of suicide and mental illness, as 1 in 5 people each year will experience mental illness and only 35% of people will seek support.

Created by Sandpit and funded by beyondblueThe Ripple Effect is a project led by The National Centre for Farmer Health, in partnership with Deakin University, Victorian Farmers’ Federation, AgChatOZ, Sandpit, Western District Health Service and Mental Illness Fellowship North Queensland.

For more information or to register for The Ripple Effect, visit therippleffect.com.au.

For anyone experiencing severe hardship or depression you can reach out to beyondblue here, www.beyondblue.org.au.

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