Agriculture remains the key economic foundation of many rural and regional communities. In New South Wales alone 56,000 people are employed in agriculture and more than 26,000 farms use 58 million hectares of land.
Yet, crops have already seen a drop in yields and some regional towns have seen significant reductions in population as direct results of climate change. This often results in further losses in available community services and increased regional and rural unemployment.
According to research conducted by the Climate Council, regional and rural communities are vulnerable to a wide range of impacts from our changing climate. Coping with these risks will require a concerted effort from all parties.
How climate change is impacting Australian agriculture
Agricultural patterns are changing and at the same time, the whole of New South Wales has been living with drought over recent years. While farmers and the communities around them come to terms with what’s happening on their farms, the toll on mental health is increasing.
Climate is the key determinant of what grows where, and the profitability of virtually any agricultural enterprise. Any changes to the climate that reduce water availability and/or lead to stressful high temperatures can, in turn, have serious negative impacts on farm production.
The impacts of climate change are wide-ranging. Impacts on crop productivity are relatively straight forward. Other impacts, such as changes to the distribution and incidence of pests and diseases, interruptions to supply chains and transportation networks, altered seasonality and work schedules and pressure on the agricultural workforce are more complex.
Farmers on the front line
The impacts of climate change are not just being felt on the land they’re farming but on farmers’ mental health as well. Each day farmers across Australia are facing emotional and psychological pressures that are leading to depression, anxiety, and other mental health concerns. They’re struggling in silence and are often unaware that support is available.
While rural and regional communities in Australia are already disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change, the impact of mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and suicide are also more prevalent in these areas.
The stresses of drought and changing weather patterns and their impact on farmer mental health are proven. Strong action to adapt may be happening, but the stress continues. It is no wonder farmers are feeling stressed and experiencing mental health issues like depression and anxiety. Farmers want to survive and adapt to climate change, and there are innovative adaptations emerging around the country, but the changes needed and the rapid impacts of climate change are tough to navigate.
Bringing essential evidence-based tools and programs to regional and rural communities
Black Dog Institute is a global leader in mental health research and is one of only two Medical Research Institutes in Australia to focus on mental health across the lifespan. Through its ongoing research and development of evidence-based resources, the Black Dog Institute is actively working to improve the lives of those at risk of depression, anxiety and suicide who are living in rural and remote Australia.
The Institute has a strategic objective to use the latest technology and evidence-based tools to quickly turn its world-class research findings into clinical services, education and e-health products that improve the lives of people with mental illness.
The Black Dog Institute is also a leader in e-mental health research, having built a considerable body of evidence investigating the development of interventions to lower depression, lower suicide risk and promote wellbeing.
The Black Dog Institute has shown that access to support services is greatly reduced in regional and rural communities and they are actively working to ensure that these communities are able to access the support they need.
It is known that about two-thirds of people with a mental illness do not seek help. Despite increased investment and strong evidence showing that prevention and intervention saves lives, factors like geography, stigma and social circumstances make it hard for people to get help, so online and telephone services are being researched and trialed to overcome these barriers.
Switch to Enova and support the Black Dog Institute
Enova Energy is proudly supporting the work of the Black Dog Institute. Anyone who switches to Enova can nominate to have $50 donated to the Black Dog Institute on their behalf or have the $50 credited to their first bill. Each $50 donation will support the Black Dog Institute to expand the reach of essential online tools and mental health programs so that farmers know support is there when they need it.
“It’s really important for farmers to talk to somebody rather than keep it all bottled up. It’s that contact that can save someone’s life,” James, NSW farmer.
If you’re based in regional New South Wales and would like to support farmers while also taking action on climate change, make the switch to Enova and nominate for Enova to donate $50 to the Black Dog Institute on your behalf. Take action here.
If this raises any issues for you, you can call Lifeline on 131114.