FINDING HOPE: Rural counsellor Lynn Stuart helps bush people battling depression or suicidal thoughts.
FINDING HOPE: Rural counsellor Lynn Stuart helps bush people battling depression or suicidal thoughts. Toni Somes

Workshops aim to raise awareness of stress

BUSH blokes grappling with depression may go to a back paddock or behind the shed and yell or cry, which is OK, as long as they go home afterwards.

That's the message from Warwick counsellor Lynn Stuart, who was speaking at the first "Now The Mud Has Settled" Workshop held at Massie last week.

Rural people are doing it tough. Many people I talk with are struggling financially and after three floods in three years they are asking 'how much more can we take?

The experienced local mental health worker is running a series of workshops supported by the Southern Downs Regional Council across the region focused on helping rural people affected by the floods.

She said the series aims to raise awareness about how disaster and subsequent stress can trigger mental illness and suicidal behaviour.

They also teach people how to recognise the warning signs and what to do in a crisis before sufferers can get professional help.

As a counsellor she is disarmingly direct, a legacy of a lifetime spent in the bush.

"I have been on properties or worked with property owners most of my life and I know it's mostly feast or famine financially," Ms Stuart said.

"Rural people are doing it tough.

"Many people I talk with are struggling financially and after three floods in three years they are asking 'how much more can we take?'."

She understands what it's like to face a battle in the bush that you think you can't win.

Growing up she lived on properties around Texas and Bonshaw, then as a young woman home was a Swan Creek grain and livestock place. She then worked in northern Queensland within the rural communities for many years, going on to properties and spending days with them to help sort out difficulties.

Today she lives at Deuchar, and with her husband retains an interest in a Dalby grain farm.

"I can definitely relate to the situation, but I am there to listen to their story and ask the most important question: What really matters?" Ms Stuart said.

"It is tough to walk away with nothing material but you still have your family and the future to work toward.

"Being stoic was part of the male psyche and deeply ingrained particularly in rural people, but that is changing and folk are now realising that help is available, all they have to do is reach out.

"Blokes I talk with, they'll often have had a quiet cry with their wife or gone out to a back paddock and screamed, but even though both of these can be therapeutic, they often need more than that to cope in the long run.

"Of more concern is the action of going inward and shutting down. It is okay to ask for professional help and see your doctor or a counsellor.

"There are always answers, there is always hope, sometimes they just need help to see it.

"One life lost via suicide is one too many, do not let it be yours."

She said the high-risk ages for men completing suicide remained around 30-54yrs (mainly 40-44yrs) and then those over 75.

Women struggle as well but their suicide rates are much lower and are steady regardless of age, except around the 50-54yrs mark.

"People who suicide have lost hope and lost their purpose or reason to live: Purpose is your mojo.

"When you can't work your land, because you have no money and you can't sell and get out, you may feel that there is no hope. Not so.

"Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. You can get through tough times with support and knowledge."

She said those in need of immediate help should call Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467 or Lifeline 131 114 which are both a direct personal 24hr service or The Samaritans 135 247.

Upcoming events to help

The next free Now the Mud Has Settled workshop will be held tomorrow in Warwick at Kings City Church Hall, corner of Horsman Rd and Gertrude St from 6pm.

A two-day mental health first aid workshop will be held in Warwick on September 2-3 and in Stanthorpe on September 11-12.

Phone 4666 3799 or email lynn.stuart85@gmail.com.



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