Australia is in the grips of a drought. For city-slickers like me, it has meant the introduction of tough water restrictions. No sprinklers, no hosing of cars or hard surfaces. Hoses to be used to water gardens Sundays and Wednesdays before 10am and after 4pm.
I never had the perfect garden. I have the blackest of thumbs, even though many Australian plants are extremely hardy and have made a good stand against me. I'm afraid my garden stands out like a sore thumb in this picture perfect suburb of pristine lawns and immaculate garden beds. Today, in the midst of water restrictions, I host a dustbowl in my front yard.
Some people still have their beautiful lawns. People love their gardens, some enough to even flaunt the restrictions. Watering the lawn as if life was dependent on it.
Ironic really because, not too far away, the drought really is costing lives.
If city dwellers feel the bite of the drought as they watch their gardens dry up and their cars go dirty, they should spare a thought for the Australian farmers who livelihood is dependent on what so many of us take for granted.
Every four days one Australian farmer commits suicide.
I heard this figure today and it shocked me.
"People are coming to terms with the fact that they will have some substantial losses this year. We are seeing a lot of people who feel very alone, very isolated … the reality is starting to set in as each day goes by without rain."
Jock Laurie, President of NSW Farmers Association
Add to this the paucity of mental health services in rural Australia and it shouldn't really be a surprise. In many remote areas of Australia, mental health is offered on a 'fly in, fly out' basis. Read the tragic story of Klay Stevens here.
Although tragically late for some, the problem is finally getting recognition, with a push to improve rural mental health provision. In May of this year, a Mental Health Network was set up for farmers to seek assistance. An overview of the organisation, its goal and participants can be accessed from the Mental Health Network site.
If you wish to join the NSW Farmers Rural Mental Health Network or would like more information on this initiative, you can contact the NSW Farmers Association on 1300 794 000, (02) 8251 1700 or email email@example.com.
Other important numbers (Australia only):
Mensline Australia 1300 789 978
Victorian Statewide Suicide Helpline 1300 651 251