5%, sounds like an inconsequential number until you apply it to all things that impact the cost of living such as inflation, interest rate hikes etc. But what if it was applied to something else that doesn’t live in the news or social media? Say you found out that the suicide rate in an Australian rural community was 5% in the last 3 years? Would it be an important measure then or something to ignore because it doesn’t impact you?

This year a NRL celebrity and reality TV star took their lives. The outcry for these two people was incredible. Because they were famous their deaths filled all social and news media mediums. Two people, living in cities, with access to all forms of support. Out cries of how this could possibly happen. Phone numbers for organisations able help people with suicidal thoughts were plastered everywhere. Yet a community in NSW experiencing a 5% suicide rate with little or no access to support services goes unnoticed. It makes you wonder where our values as a nation lie.

The Community I’m speaking of is a small town in the Bega Valley. This community continues to struggle with the aftereffects of the bushfires from three years ago. The region was left devastated from 3000-degree heat fires. Fires so huge they sucked all oxygen from valleys leaving suffocated people and herds in its wake. On a national scale these fires resulted in 429 deaths and destroyed 24 million hectares of land.

Of course, after the fires the region was inundated with service organisations. These organisations stood up shopfronts and started helping the community. Then Covid hit and there was a mass exodus. The Cobargo community was left to its own resources, the members felt forgotten. Over the next three years this community of 800 suffered through the loss of forty men who took their own lives. Without any sense of support or hope 5% of that community took their own lives because they couldn’t go on.

When I heard this figure, I was floored, how could this be true in a country like Australia. I was unable to respond and had to take a few minutes while I absorbed it. In the cities, on social media and internet we talk about the scourge of suicide on our community. Hundreds of organisations have sprung up. Many of them able to assist people through phone and internet connections. But what about those living remotely in rural Australia that don’t have phone or internet access?

Once Covid became a manageable affliction support services started returning to Cobargo. These included a number of agencies focused on people’s health and wellbeing. Unfortunately, as hard as these people tried, they were limited by government support and funding to what they could accomplish. These services are also limited in how they can advertise their presence and access those in need. Some of the people who would benefit from these services live so remotely they have no phones, internet and even electricity. Reaching these people requires a permanent presence in a community. The service providers need to earn the trust of the community. Only through the locals will they learn who and where these people are so assistance can be provided.

The elephant in the room is do we ignore this as not a city problem. After all aren’t farmers and rural dwellers made of resilient stock. Or do we try and figure out solutions to stem the flow of rural suicides?

Lobbying all levels of governments to directly or indirectly provide these services doesn’t work. There is only so much funding available and nowhere near enough mental health practitioners available to cover rural Australia.

So that means the solution lives with us as Australians and members of the national community.

Published by zimmermanwalks

An Australian military veteran, I spend my time volunteering for a number of organisations and blogging on the challenges faced by Veterans.

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