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Supporting Murrumbidgee’s farming community through tough times

Staff from the National Drought and Flood Agency recently met with the Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network (MPHN) while visiting Wagga Wagga in the NSW Riverina.

The MPHN is an Australian Government initiative and one of 31 primary health care organisations across Australia. The purpose of the Primary Health Network is to streamline medical services and improve coordination to ensure patients receive the right care, in the right place, at the right time.

The Agency visited to learn about some of the initiatives developed by the network to help farmers and communities deal with the uncertainty, stress and anxiety brought about by drought, as well as other challenges that come from living in remote and regional Australia.

These initiatives are supported by the MPHN’s drought steering committee, which helps make decisions on activities funded under the Australian Government’s Empowering Our Communities program.

“The drought steering committee is made up of many non-traditional partners including Local Land Services, agricultural organisations, Councils and several farmers who have lived experiences and represent their communities,” said MPHN CEO, Melissa Neal. 

“We made a point of getting together people that are delivering services to or have a connection with our farmers.”

 “We had a lot of success with last year’s community grants program which help to build and strengthen relationships and improve social connectedness through activities such as group exercise, art classes, resilience workshops and workforce training,” said Melissa.

“By organising these events MPHN was able to engage with people who wouldn’t normally seek out or know how to access our services.”

Among the items handed out at these events was a mental health support diary. The diary is another way to help people going through challenging times.

“Scattered throughout the diary are tips for managing stress, practicing self-care, how to identify if someone might need support, dos and don’ts of Christmas, when you should seek help for depression - and most importantly, where to go to seek help,” said Melissa.

“Forty-thousand diaries have been given out around the region, including 7,000 at Henty Machinery Field Days.”

“We want to make sure that support is available to those who need it.  There’s not the same stigma attached to picking up a diary that there is picking up a mental health brochure. It’s useful and it could save a life.”

Another MPHN initiative has been the ‘Tell it well’ story project, which captures yarns from people living in the Murrumbidgee area to inspire people living with the impacts of drought by offering practical tips to support mental health and wellbeing..

“The power of storytelling can’t be underestimated. Stories connect us. They help build relationships and start conversations. We hope these stories will help kick off conversations, give people hope and encourage help-seeking behaviours,” said Melissa.

To find out more about the Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network (MPHN) visit their website.

Check out the MPHN Tell it well stories

If you or someone you care for is in need of immediate support you can contact the below National Crisis Counselling Services.

  • Lifeline 13 11 14 - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • Lifeline Text 0477 13 11 14 – 6pm to midnight (AEDT), 7 nights a week
  • Beyond Blue – 1300 22 4636 - www.beyondblue.org.au
  • Butterfly Foundation National Helpline 1800 334 673
  • Carer Support 1800 242 636 or 1300 554 660
  • SANE Australia Helpline 1800 187 263
  • Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467
  • Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 www.kidshelpline.com.au
  • MensLine Australia 1300 789 978
  • QLife 1800 184 527
  • Open Arms – Veterans and Families Counselling 1800 011 046

Photo provided by the Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network.