Campaign launched to address the mental side of drought

IT IS a plan to help them help themselves.

On Friday, 79% of Queensland was formally drought-stricken, the largest area ever recorded.

Parts of the Sunshine Coast, Gympie, Gladstone, Toowoomba, Southern Downs and Western Downs are now on the list and eligible for financial help from the state government.

In New South Wales, the drought is ravaging much of the state's top half beyond the coastline now qualifying for emergency drought support.

But months before these latest Queensland declarations, UnitingcareCommunity's Paul Norton began travelling to some of the state's most remote centres.

As part of a greater campaign to help communities better understand and recognise mental health issues, particularly for areas in crisis, the trainer went to work.

Since the end of November, he has helped UCC hold these workshops 22 times - a further 15 will be held over the next three months.

Mr Norton said while services can be scarce for those needing emotional help in these isolated pockets, rural communities can often be their own safety net.

"The people in the community know better than anybody who may be doing it tough, much better than someone from the outside," he said.

"I think it's always been the way.

"They know the realities, they know who is in trouble and they know who needs support."

The goal is to help the community learn more about what to look for, know who could be at risk and maybe suggest some help.

For many it was a relief to know how to recognise those needing hep, rather than worry about everyone.

"You can't help someone when you can't recognise it," Mr Norton said.

"(The community) is less likely to be going around generally concerned when they can say, 'I know that this is something to be worried about'."

In coming weeks, UCC will visit the Queensland towns of Winton, Longreach, Barcaldine, Emerald, Clermont, Roma, and Tambo.


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