Mental health in spotlight

Mental health in spotlight

Life & Style
Outback Futures is shining a light on mental health, bringing specialists to families in rural areas.

Outback Futures is shining a light on mental health, bringing specialists to families in rural areas.

Aa

WE know that rural Queenslanders are doing it tough.

Aa

WE know that rural Queenslanders are doing it tough.

Yet despite facing devastating dry spells and financial strain, they are often 'out of sight, out of mind' for those living on the green-fringed coast of this otherwise sunburnt country.

Psychologist Selena Gomersall knows this all too well, which is why she closed her private practice in Brisbane last year to create Outback Futures, an organisation that brings mental and allied health specialists to families in remote areas.

Although it only became official a year ago, the story of her organisation really began in 2011, when Selena was asked to attend an event at Cobbold Gorge, about six hours' drive inland from Townsville.

The event was Camp Cobbold, a week-long holiday program for remote families to connect and have access to support services.

"I worked with about 30 women that week, so I got a fairly big snapshot of the situation up there," Selena said.

"I was just blown away by the resilience of these women, and their incredible determination to do amazing things with their families, despite incredibly limited resources and opportunities."

"It's very much informed by locals and what they feel they need."

Selena has been going back every year since, and Outback Futures now runs one of its major clinics at Camp Cobbold each year.

The clinics provide a wide range of special health services that people in the bush would typically not receive.

"It gives mums a chance to get an injury dealt with from the physio that they've never had a chance to have looked at, or access to an occupational therapist for their child who's having trouble with handwriting, or time to talk with a counsellor about their husband who's depressed and dealing with issues," Selena said.

Outback Futures clinics are run by local invitation only, so that the organisation maintains its 'bush-informed agenda'.

It also means clinics are run far and wide, from Georgetown to Greenvale, Charters Towers to Mt Garnet.

Selena said one of their main distinctions was the bush/city board.

"It's very much informed by locals and what they feel they need. We don't prescribe our services to anyone," she said.

The beauty of that was that "the old bush telegraph" was still at play.

"We get our referral and advocacy on the spot from locals. We don't have to sell who we are, because the bush runs on trusted relationships."

"This is about the physical, mental, and emotional health of our primary industries."

The benefits of these services may go far beyond the sessions.

"There have been some very powerful stories to watch unfold as families receive support," Selena said.

"If a mother gets some support or health services, she is so much more resilient and able to support the father who comes in off the land each day, bearing the load of cattle who've died in the bog, or have no feed. It all has a very systemic effect, even though you may only be addressing one particular area of need."

As bush folk are in need of support services, however, Outback Futures is in need of funding. They currently run a clinic each month, but are not able to keep up with demand. Selena said that with the resources to expand, they could run more.

"The costs of equipment and travelling to remote areas are very high," she said.

"The opportunity and the relationships are there now, and the invitations are coming in thick and fast - we just desperately need the funding in order to meet those needs."

And those needs, she said, were huge, with many farmers expecting their hardest year yet.

"Grazing families will always prioritise their livestock over themselves. If they only have a certain amount of money to spend and so many appointments, it's the doctor's appointment that will get shafted first," Selena said.

"You can look after the cattle and the livestock, but at the end of the day, people are our primary industries. This is about the physical, mental, and emotional health of our primary industries."

Aa

From the front page

Sponsored by