BACKGROUND: Drought has been a major stressor affecting rural New South Wales communities since late 2001. While much is known about the effects on mental health of acute natural disasters, there is less research available on the effect to communities of chronic natural disasters. Of great concern for Australian rural communities is that independent of drought, the rate of suicide for some groups is higher in rural than urban communities, while access to mental health services is less. OBJECTIVE: This article explores how general practitioners can identify and respond to the drought related mental health needs of farming residents. DISCUSSION: Limited availability of mental health services to rural communities increases reliance on GPs for mental health care. Residents of farming communities report experiencing substantial distress in relation to the drought. The local GP is a key source of consultation, advice and treatment. Early intervention is a critical task in improving the mental health of rural communities. Early intervention provided by GPs will be enhanced through: working closely with other community agencies to promote early effective intervention for mental health problems, improve access to advice and initial consultation, and facilitate urgent consultation when needed; increasing access to services for farmers and responding promptly to needs; and utilising the support of rural organisational workers.
|Number of pages||4|
|Journal||Australian Family Physician|
|Publication status||Published - Dec 2007|