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  • The black dog in country Australia

    Author: AAP

Australians living in rural regions are more likely to take their own lives as a collection of pressures push them to the brink.

A black dog is haunting Australia's rural communities.

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While it can't be seen or touched and many can't describe what it is, its effect is very real.

Loneliness, a lack of coping mechanisms and financial pressures are pushing farmers to the brink, and in some cases, over it.

These issues, unique to country Australians, have contributed to the number of rural suicides per capita being well above those recorded in state capitals.


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And for many, isolation isn't only exacerbating mental illnesses, it is also preventing sufferers from being treated.

Beyondblue chairman Jeff Kennett said many people in rural Australia aren't getting the support they need to recover from mental disorders, or to help manage them.

"Farmers, or those in rural or remote areas just don't have the same access to services as the people in metropolitan or regional towns do."

But those earning a living off their land also have additional pressures which metropolitan Australians do not.

"The difference in farming is that many of these properties have been in the same families for generations," Mr Kennett told AAP.

"The farmer that finds himself in a totally stressed situation feels as though he has failed and failed his family.

"And therefore, in some cases, can be tempted to attempt to take their own life."

Australia's suicide statistics illustrate the disparity between country and metropolitan communities.

In every state there are more suicides per capita in country areas than in capital cities according to an Australian Bureau of Statistics report published in 2012.

The trend is best illustrated by Australia's two biggest states, Western Australia and Queensland, which have some of the highest numbers of suicides in country regions.

The standardised suicide rate between 2006-2010 showed more than 17 people per 100,000 took their own lives each year in rural Western Australia and Queensland, about a third more than in Perth and Brisbane.

Yet despite the number of deaths, help groups are still struggling to get rural communities to listen.

Lifeline CEO Jane Hayden said one of the biggest hurdles faced by support programs is assuring many in the rural community that it is okay to ask for and accept help.

"There is very much a stoic attitude, especially among men in rural areas," she told AAP.

"There is a real attitude that they will sort things out for themselves.

"One of the key messages organisations are trying to get out is breaking down that stigma of seeking help."

Remoteness is not the only challenge contributing to the inflated number of country suicides.

Penny Carlisle, who works for rural support program Community Mates, part of the Catholic Social Services CentaCare network and the Diocese of Wilcannia-Forbes said financial pressures, alcoholism and drug use also play a part in mental illnesses.

"It's about how life can be so tough out here, how much money is probably owed and isolation - alcohol and drug abuse is also a factor," she told AAP.

"Everyone says the drought's over. The drought's not over, the ripple-on effect from the drought is still continuing, the damage was done to their brains back then."

Despite the logistical difficulties, help is more readily available for rural communities than ever before.

The internet is now being used to provide support services that, before the web, couldn't be physically provided.

Beyondblue offers a daily online chatroom for rural Australians to discuss their issues with professional therapists, while most state governments have set up 24-hour support lines for distressed Australians.

Still, seven Australians take their own lives each day, adding up to more than 2500 suicides each year.

On Suicide Prevention Day, support groups are unanimous in saying, it's more than 2500 too many.

* Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Copyright AAP 2014


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