Zoetis and Beyond Blue continue to support mental health and reduce stigma around mental health in rural communities - Elders Rural Services

Zoetis and Beyond Blue continue to support mental health and reduce stigma around mental health in rural communities

Leading Animal Health company Zoetis continues to support the mental health challenges faced by people living in rural Australia through its crucial partnership with Beyond Blue, committing to raise up to $100,000 to support the mental health organisation in 2020, the fifth year of this joint campaign.

Zoetis, who works closely with rural Australia through interactions with the country’s farmers, agricultural stores, veterinarians and their families, has helped raise $400,000 in the past four years by donating $5 from each sale of the company’s livestock, pig and poultry vaccines and drenches. The money raised goes directly to Beyond Blue’s Support Service to continue helping people living in remote areas who experience higher rates of mental health conditions and suicide. To date, thanks to Zoetis’s donation, over 8,000 people have been able to get the support they need through the Beyond Blue service.

“Zoetis is proud to once again be supporting Beyond Blue and the important work they do,” says Lance Williams, Zoetis Senior Vice President and Cluster Lead, Australia and New Zealand. “We knew that supporting mental health in rural Australia was critical when we first embarked on this support campaign, but we didn’t know then just how important the partnership would be. Together we have made strong progress in supporting the mental health and wellbeing of rural families and individuals, and we are passionate about helping again this year.”

Since the partnership between Zoetis and Beyond Blue started in 2016, calls to the Support Service have increased by 20 per cent, and the number of people calling for help is expected to be even higher this year. In April alone, Beyond Blue experienced a 60% increase in contacts compared to the same time last year.

“This is a good sign because it means more people are reaching out for support. That tells us there’s less and less stigma attached to support seeking,” Beyond Blue CEO Georgie Harman said.

“This year has brought its challenges and over the past couple of months, people have been telling us they’re feeling overwhelmed, worried, lonely, and concerned about their physical health. They’re also concerned about the health of friends and loved ones, finances, job security and the economy.”

“Community, mateship and humour are very much part of our national character and they’re qualities people in rural and regional areas demonstrate every day. These will be tremendous strengths as we support each other through these difficult times,” said Ms Harman.

2020 has been a considerably challenging year for Australian communities, with record breaking droughts, devastating bushfires, serious flooding and now, the global pandemic COVID-19. Up to 33% of Australia has suffered from severe rainfall deficiency over the past four years up to January 2020[1]. Although much needed rainfall was delivered at the beginning of 2020, this was overshadowed by the wave of bushfires that ravaged 18 million hectares of land, destroying more than 2000 homes. Just as the fires had subsided, severe flooding swept through parts of New South Wales and Queensland, and more recently Australia started its battle with COVID-19, forcing people into their homes and obstructing recovery from the previous natural disasters.

Beyond Blue Lead Clinical Advisor Dr Grant Blashki said in any disaster recovery, it is tempting for people to throw themselves into the physical rebuild, but it is just as important that we invest in our mental health too.

“We know that coming together physically as a community after a disaster is good for our mental health and wellbeing. At a time when we still need to maintain physical distance, let’s make an effort to do that safely and remember we can stay connected in other ways,” Dr Blashki said.

“Call or use video chat to check in with each other. If people have limited or no access to digital devices or the internet, having a chat with a neighbour over the fence while keeping an appropriate physical distance can be beneficial.”

The Beyond Blue Support Service offers free contact with counsellors by phone, webchat or email. In addition to the Support Service, Beyond Blue’s online resources can help people turn their lives around. With more than 100,000 people using Beyond Blue’s online forums every month, tapping into an online peer support network offering people connection and support from others who have been through similar experiences. The forums are monitored by a team of moderators who are trained to offer support to users and ensure conversations are safe and welcoming.

Ms Harman explained that all funds raised by Zoetis go towards the Beyond Blue Support Service.

“Every dollar raised goes directly to our phone and online services which are an excellent way for people to get the assistance they need, regardless of location. In fact, it’s very encouraging to see that people in rural and remote communities access the Beyond Blue online forums at a proportionally higher rate than people living in the cities,” Ms Harman said.

“People in rural Australia have been through some tough times recently, and thanks to generous donations such as this one, Beyond Blue can continue to offer free support, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” Ms Harman said.

People can support the Zoetis initiative from July 15 to October 31, 2020. For every animal health product sold by Zoetis, they will donate $5, up to $100,000 to Beyond Blue.

For more information on how you can help Zoetis to raise vital funds to support mental health in our rural communities through its partnership with Beyond Blue please visit www.zoetis.com.au

For more information about depression and anxiety, visit www.beyondblue.org.au. To talk to a mental health professional for free, contact the 24/7 Beyond Blue Support Service on 1300 22 46 36. Free web chat is also available from 3pm until midnight at beyondblue.org.au/getsupport and you can join the forums for free and download the BeyondNow app from the website.

The free Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service is available 24/7 at coronavirus.beyondblue.org.au Its dedicated phone line, staffed by mental health professionals trained on the pandemic response, is now open on 1800 512 348.

1 Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology

Personal Stories

Ross Read has spent most of his life living and working around the dairy industry.

From the family farm he grew up on near Shepparton to Ross’ current job with Dairy Australia providing training for farmers and their employees, farming has always been a big part of his life. Yet there is another part to Ross’ life which he has only more recently come to terms with. Ross now recognises his depression and anxiety have been simmering in the background for years and he can now talk about them openly.

“I’ve been seeing a counsellor now for about 10 years, she’s helped me to recognise that some of the thoughts and feelings which I thought everyone had are actually signs of mental illness,” Ross explains.

Ross said that part of his strategy for keeping well is having people in his life who know the signs that he might be struggling. It’s this network of support, Ross’ wife, colleagues and counsellor who help him when things get tough. But Ross worries that some farmers don’t have the same support.

“Farmers often work by themselves and are tied to their land most of the time. I think there’s a lot to benefit from being involved in off farm activities, whether that be a local sporting club or farming discussion group to have that social connection. To me that’s the linchpin for farmers and it can make a huge difference.”

Leah Milston hasn’t been back to the land where her store once stood since January 1 this year.

Her book and gift shop, Milston’s Past and Present, was the last shop on the northern edge of Mogo, a small town 10-minutes’ drive down the Princes Highway from Bateman’s Bay on the NSW south coast. On December 31 at 6am, Leah woke to the phone ringing.

“On the other end of the line was a message from the Rural Fire Service telling us to evacuate now and to head East to Tomakin Beach. While I was on the phone, my partner David opened the curtains to a glowing red sky,” she said. The next morning, Leah and her partner David saw an article on the news and the shop was gone.

“We had to see it for ourselves. It took me a little while to even get out of the car once we arrived. I spent some time walking around the ashes of the shop looking for anything that might have survived the fire, but it was all gone,” she said.

Leah and David have since moved to Katoomba in the heart of the Blue Mountains. Even though they’re not physically part of the Mogo community anymore, they keep connected through social media.

“Facebook has been really useful for finding all kinds of support, from being part of the local community noticeboard where we used to live to old friends who I haven’t spoken to in years checking in with us,” she said. Leah is also a long-term user of Beyond Blue’s online Community Forums and has become a Peer Support Champion, helping to moderate the forums and support other users.

As a fifth-generation farmer, Rick Hinge knows all too well the hardships of a life on the land.

Rick lives with his wife Lynette in Mundulla, South Australia. He works in livestock management and for the last few years he has been a wellbeing consultant, checking in on people and offering a sympathetic ear.

“It’s people working in agriculture who often feel the pinch of hard times first, there’s not a lot protecting them if their crops fail, livestock is lost or prices drop. These difficult times can make it hard for people to communicate and put a strain on relationships,” Rick said.

Over the last summer, Rick and Lynette volunteered on Kangaroo Island in the aftermath of the bushfires.

“We helped where we could, rolling up damaged fences and what not, but we were also talking to people and seeing how they were travelling,” he said. Rick said that this method of working and talking has also been helpful for his own mental health. “I’ve lived with bipolar for the last 39 years and I find that when I’m well I’m 100 per cent and, mostly when unwell, I experience depression and anxiety which can last for 6 months or so,” he said.

“The last time I was down, I rang one of my farming friends and asked him if it would be okay to come over. We went around tending to his livestock and doing farm things, just spending time with him and hanging about, it was very therapeutic. People in rural communities can easily offer time to each other when things are tough, reach out to someone and ask if they’d like to go for a drive, clean out the troughs or just look at the country,” Rick added.

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