ANIMAL health company, Zoetis, has once again raised $100,000 to support the mental health challenges faced by people living in rural Australia.
Through its partnership with Beyond Blue, the contribution has now topped $500,000 since the joint campaign started in 2016, backed by Zoetis's unwavering support for the charity.
For the fifth year in a row, Zoetis has achieved its $100,000 goal by donating $5 from each sale of the company's cattle, sheep, pig, poultry and goat vaccines and drenches.
The funds raised have gone directly to the Beyond Blue Support Service to continue supporting people, including those living in remote areas, by providing free advice, counselling and referrals 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
To date more than 10,400 people have been able to access support through Beyond Blue.
Zoetis senior vice president ANZ, Lance Williams said the importance of improving mental health and tackling the tragedy of suicide, which disproportionately affect people in regional and rural areas was recognised.
"We understand the devastating effect suicide can have on rural communities," Mr Williams said.
"We see first-hand the farming communities where record breaking droughts, devastating bushfires, serious flooding and now, the global pandemic COVID-19 causes upset and stresses that people living in our cities may find hard to understand.
"We're incredibly passionate and whole-heartedly committed to supporting hard-working Australians with our donations and supporting our farmers, agricultural stores and veterinarians with the supply of animal health products where needed."
Mr Williams said although Zoetis has reached its target of $500,000 over five years, its campaign did not stop there.
"We encourage our staff and the wider community to continue to raise awareness of depression, anxiety and suicide prevention and help to reduce the associated stigma," he said.
Beyond Blue chief executive officer Georgie Harman thanked Zoetis for its efforts in supporting the important cause.
"We are honoured to receive such wonderful support from Zoetis each year with all funds raised by Zoetis going towards the Beyond Blue Support Service," Ms Harman said.
"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."
This year, Beyond Blue has responded to a 30 to 40 per cent increase in demand, which peaked at 60pc in May, for its counselling service compared to 2019.
"This additional $100,000 will help to ensure that people across Australia can access support when they need, regardless of where they live," Ms Harman said.
"People living in rural and regional areas face a number of challenges which can take a toll on their wellbeing, including disasters, economic change, isolation, and poor access to services.
The Beyond Blue Support Service offers free contact with trained mental health professionals by phone, webchat or email.
"While it's well known that droughts, floods and financial worries can contribute to distress for farmers, the impact on the wider community in these areas is less well-known.
"From farmers and their families, to re-sellers and regional businesses, much of the community is impacted as the effects of hard times trickle through the local economy."
"Our Support Service is for everyone, and is open day and night thanks to generous, long-term donors like Zoetis. There's no eligibility criteria and it's never too early, or too late, to seek support - just one phone or webchat with a Beyond Blue counsellor can provide immediate relief and results, and a pathway to longer term support. It's a potentially life-changing service, especially for those feeling isolated," Ms Harman said.
Up to 33pc of Australia has suffered from severe rainfall deficiency over the four years up to January 2020. Although much needed rainfall was delivered at the beginning of 2020, this was overshadowed by the 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 NSW and Queensland, and more recently Australia started its battle with COVID-19, forcing people into their homes and obstructing recovery from previous natural disasters.
Beyond Blue lead clinical adviser Dr Grant Blashki said in any disaster recovery, it was 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," Dr Blashki said.
"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. Make a phone call or use video chat to check in with each other," Dr Blashki said.
The Beyond Blue Support Service offers free contact with trained mental health professionals by phone, webchat or email. In addition to the Support Service, Beyond Blue's online resources can help people turn their lives around.
More than 100,000 people use Beyond Blue's online forums every month, tapping into a peer support network offering people connection with 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.
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 1800 512 348 telephone service is staffed by mental health professionals trained on the pandemic response.