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Regional Queensland hit hard by rising suicide rate

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Suicide response: “Sometimes it could be a matter of pride that says ‘I don’t want to ask anyone, I’ve always taken care of my family’.”

IN the rural South Burnett region, death from suicide has been almost double the rate compared to Brisbane.

The region is in the north of the Brisbane archdiocese, yet it is lacking in the vital services– psychologists, psychiatrists and mental health nurses – which can help reduce self inflicted injuries and deaths

Between 2009 and 2013 there were 18 deaths from suicide and self-inflicted injuries per 100,000 amongst South Burnett residents compared to 10 in urban Brisbane.

Nanango parish priest Fr Nigel Sequeira (pictured) said up until the rain came earlier this year, the isolated region had experienced three years of crippling drought.

“Farms were mortgaged, it was hard for farmers to make ends meet and they don’t see a way out,” he said.

“In some cases they don’t know how to ask for help or what help to get.

“Sometimes it could be a matter of pride that says ‘I don’t want to ask anyone, I’ve always taken care of my family’.

“A lot of the farming community don’t ask for handouts.

“And then they get to a situation where life just gets too difficult for them.”

Fr Sequeira said funding to some of the chaplaincy programs were cut short when a region was no longer drought declared.  

And yet he said, problems persist. Farmers are still “beholden to debt”.

 “People still have to make up for those years of drought. They have to make up for the backlog, to make those payments,” he said.

“And then they don’t see an end in sight. The future doesn’t look bright for them.”

He said jobs were also scarce in the South Burnett region. 

“People move in here for cheaper rent, but the job situation doesn’t support the people coming in,” he said.

“When they don’t have jobs, that causes anxiety and the problems that come with that.”

He said the distances farmers and rural dwellers had to drive, and even availability of transport as hurdles to treating mental health. 

“It’s easier to connect people in a suburb in Brisbane,” he said.

“Because of the remoteness there are lots of these problems all over the place and how are you going to help them?”

By Mark Bowling

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