Promoting mental health – are we focussing on the most needy sector of our rural communities?

A study that investigated the relationship between levels of mental health and well-being (in terms of self-reported levels of distress) with employment and occupational status of rural residents was undertaken as a component of the Australian Rural Mental Health Study and reported. Psychological distress was measured using Kessler-10, with an additional item addressing functional impairment (days out of role).

The highest levels of distress and functional impairment were reported by those permanently unable to work and the unemployed group with rates of ‘caseness’ (likely mental health disorder) varying from 57% to 69%,compared with 34% of farmers and farm managers and 29% of health workers. This paper will present the findings of the study and discuss the policy implications of this study in relation to;
(1) impact of drought and climate change on rural restructuring and employment;
(2) key target populations in rural communities for mental health promotion, and (3) ensuring access to mental health services and support for the unemployed sector in rural communities.

A Prof Lyn Fragar – Ass Prof Australian Centre for Agricultural Health & Safety, Moree, NSW

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