Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

Mental Health training helps community get in a good place

With the effects of plunging milk prices and bushfires in South West Victoria, the community was feeling strained. Front line workers were regularly being confronted with people breaking down because they couldn’t pay their bills, afford feed for their stock or feeling financial pressure. 

The Simpson & District Community Centre (SDCC) knew it was important to keep the conversation about mental health in the community open, to continue to break down the stigma associated with asking for help. So, they wanted to equip local community members with the skills to recognise mental health issues and provide resources for referrals to support services, as well as give them skills in self-care, given they were dealing with more and more people in crisis.

SDCC was established almost four decades ago to support Western Victorian dairying communities. Around 50 people a week use its facilities for meetings and activities – from craft, scrabble days, children’s activities, adult education, digital literacy, a Men’s Shed programme and more. The centre puts considerable effort into reducing social isolation and increasing health and wellbeing in the area.

The Simpson area has been supported by a Dairy Community Support Officer who works with farming community families in crisis. In three years, the social worker’s client numbers went from 9 to 98. She identified a number of mental health issues facing the community including anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol abuse and self-imposed isolation. The community has had one suicide since the beginning of the dairy crisis and wanted to do whatever was needed to prevent more. 

Through the In a Good Place Program, funded by CCI Giving, FRRR was able to help fund the delivery the training. In March 2019, nine community members participated in a two-day Mental Health First Aid course.  Another session ran in March 2020, with a half day refresher for the previous years’ participants.  

In total, 16 members of the community were provided with the training and skills to identify and start a conversation regarding mental health. Those trained included workers from the local supermarket and Post Office, stockfeed supplier and vet group, as well as dairy farmers and volunteers from the Football Netball Club, Men’s Shed, Community Centre, Cricket Club, CFA and Landcare network. The array of participants meant that there was great community coverage, with everyone attending wearing “more than one hat” – so those new skills are going into nearly every organisation and workplace in Simpson.

Furthermore, the instructor for the First Aid program and the Dairy Community Support Officer were able to identify an opportunity to secure funding for additional training that will reach the community, regarding Mental Health in the elderly population. Transitioning off farms for older people is an area of mental health difficulty that the Support Officer sees first hand in her work in the community.

The SDCC maintains that if just one person can be supported through a crisis without a tragedy, then the program will be a success.

Training more people in the community to recognise the signs and direct them to help or help to them can only improve the long term outcomes for our community and increase the resilience and sense of connection.

By providing the training we are giving people the skills to take back into the community at their workplaces, homes and recreation activities. The more people who are able to recognise and respond to the signs of deteriorating mental health the stronger our community will be. These skills will be maintained for life and can be shared.”

SDCC Final Report

Congratulations to the SDCC for the great strength and support they provide and their ability to adapt to the community’s changing needs.

Simpson dairy farmers in a good place