A conversation with a drought support worker, often known as a farm gate counsellor, is guiding people across the state on the path to mental wellbeing, thanks to an additional $4.38 million investment by the NSW Government.
NSW Minister for Mental Health Bronnie Taylor said the program involving 27 drought support workers across eight Local Health Districts was being extended because the specialised care they provided to communities is crucial.
"The impact of the ongoing drought, compounded by devastating bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic, is weighing heavily on our rural communities," Mrs Taylor said.
"Having an authentic conversation wherever it works for the person doing it tough can really help to get the ball rolling towards improved mental health and well-being.
"This support is about providing a friendly face who gives the right help, at the right place, at the right time."
Drought support workers, often called 'farm gate counsellors', come from a variety of backgrounds, from individuals with nursing degrees to peer workers who combine invaluable lived experience with on-the-job mental health training and support.
Drought support worker Robert 'Butch' Young covers Southern NSW. He says his background is invaluable to starting conversations with people.
"Often they just want to talk to someone who gets farming and speaks bush."
"Country people are very different to city people. You have to observe the culture and work out how to get in the farm gate and start a genuine conversation," he said.
The additional funding is available under the Emergency Drought Relief Package which was announced earlier this month by the NSW Government. It includes an $11.93 million investment to improve access to and delivery of mental health services in rural and remote communities.