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The festive season, while joyous for many, can be a challenging time for some residents in rural and regional Victoria. The isolation that characterizes these areas is often exacerbated during Christmas, contributing to mental health issues.

In our close-knit communities, the pressure to conform to the traditional festive cheer can intensify feelings of loneliness and isolation for those who may not have close family ties or a robust support system. The absence of bustling city activities leaves some feeling disconnected and excluded.

Cost of living and other economic hardships may also amplify stress during the holidays. Financial strains can lead to heightened anxiety, as families grapple with the pressure to provide a memorable Christmas despite tight budgets.

Furthermore, the stigma surrounding mental health in smaller communities may deter individuals from seeking help. Limited access to mental health services compounds this issue, and many feel they have little or no support.

If you struggle through this period, here are 5 tips to help you get through Christmas:

  1. Community Connection: Engage with local community events and support networks. Attend Christmas gatherings or volunteer for festive activities to foster connections and combat feelings of isolation. Local community centers or online platforms may provide information on events and opportunities.
  2. Financial Planning: Farmers and small business owners can seek assistance from the financial and wellbeing counsellors at RFCS (1300 735 578). Individuals may seek assistance from local financial counseling services and organizations like the National Debt Helpline (1800 007 007) can offer advice to individuals and help them make informed decisions.
  3. Reach Out for Support: Don’t hesitate to reach out to friends, family, or local mental health services for support. Initiatives like Beyond Blue (1300 22 4636) and Lifeline (13 11 14) provide confidential counseling and resources, ensuring individuals don’t face their challenges alone. See more support services below.
  4. Embrace Technology: Leverage technology to bridge distances. Connect with loved ones through video calls or social media to maintain a sense of closeness, especially if physical travel is challenging. Online support groups may also provide a virtual community for those facing similar experiences.
  5. Self-Care Practices: Prioritize self-care by incorporating simple daily routines that promote mental well-being. This could include regular exercise, mindfulness exercises, or engaging in hobbies. Resources like Head to Health (headtohealth.gov.au) offer information on mental health and well-being strategies.

It’s important to note that these tips are general suggestions, and individuals should tailor their approach based on their unique circumstances. Seeking professional advice and support is encouraged for those facing significant challenges during the Christmas period.

Lifeline13 11 14
Lifeline Text0477 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back1300 659 467
Kids Helpline1800 551 800
Mensline Australia1300 789 978
Carer Support1800 242 636
13 Yarn13 92 76
The Imperfects Podcast
Make me Feel Good (ABC)Podcast
Mindfully (ABC)Podcast
Good Humans Podcast (Apple)Podcast (Spotify)
Just SleepPodcast

11 December 2023

The Silent Struggle

News, Wellbeing

In a time when mental health issues in the farming community are at an all-time high, the Wellbeing team at Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) Victoria West have developed Talk the Talk, a workshop specifically designed for rural suppliers and service providers to make it easier to talk to farmers about their mental health.

Designed by Wellbeing Counsellor Ann-Marie Byrne, and Community Liaison Jo Beard, the workshop teaches participants about awareness, observation skills and strategies, while providing easy to use techniques. As an experienced counsellor in regional and rural Victoria, Ann-Marie is sensitive to the isolated nature of the industry and how best to speak to farmers. Choosing the right environment and knowing how to start a conversation are two key factors. Knowing what you can do to support somebody and being aware of other professional providers that can help is just part of a comprehensive approach taken in Talk the Talk.

The second of these workshops is scheduled for the Cobden Recreation Reserve on Friday 11 August.

Invitations are going out to a broad cross section of the farm sector supply chain including vets, ag suppliers, medical providers, contractors, and tanker drivers. Individuals or businesses with an investment in their rural community are encouraged to participate.

For more information about upcoming workshops or to express an interest in attending/hosting this free, 3-hour workshop, please contact Jo Beard via email: Jo.Beard@wswrcs.com.au.

9 August 2023

Talk the Talk set for Cobden

News, Wellbeing

Supporting Farmers & Small Businesses throughout their Flood Recovery Journey. 

The government recently announced support measures for flood impacted business. The extent of the damage across the state means many communities are eligible for support. The flood grants are available now, with some grants continuing to be available for the next six months. 

Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) Victoria West’s rural and small business financial counsellors and wellbeing counsellors are on the ground working alongside farmers and small business owners impacted by the damaging and unpredictable nature of the floods.  

“We appreciate that it can be difficult during times of crisis to know when or how to reach out for help, or even if you qualify.  First and foremost, I encourage people to avoid  self-assessing their eligibility as you may miss out on valuable assistance – there are many communities impacted by floods right across Victoria.  Our financial counsellors are available to have the conversation no matter the level of impact.  We’re here to help farmers and small business owners understand their entitlements, access grants and funding as well as link them and their family in with additional supports to ease their recovery journey,” says Mr. David Stafford, RFCS Victoria West Executive Officer. 

During times of crisis, it’s common for mental health and wellbeing issues to also become a concern.  Feelings of stress, anxiety and loss can all make the rebuilding journey that much more difficult.  At RFCS Victoria West, we have a team of qualified wellbeing counsellors available to ensure anyone eligible or currently working with a financial counsellor is fully supported.   

Our counsellors live and work in and around the communities in which we service making them highly accessible, locally relevant, and available for long-term engagement.   The service is free, confidential and we can come to you; in your home, on your farm, in your small business, wherever you feel most comfortable. 

Reach out when you’re ready, on 1300 735 578

For additional information see the Official Government Media Release.

5 December 2022

Support for Farmers and Small Businesses

Bendigo-Swan Hill, Central Highlands, Events, Farm business, Great South Coast, News, Small business, Sunraysia-Millewa, Wellbeing, Wimmera-Southern Mallee

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