Rural regions affected by drought are set to receive additional community support as Darling Downs and West Moreton PHN finalises funding for a number of community-led well being programs.

Funding will be invested into the region through the PHN under the Commonwealth Department of Health’s Empowering Our Communities initiative. This is focused on building resilience in drought affected areas by funding community-led mental health, suicide prevention, social and emotional well being initiatives.

Part of the funding will go toward supporting up to 25 community-led events and programs, according to Darling Downs and West Moreton PHN Chief Executive Officer Merrilyn Strohfeldt. “It’s really encouraging to see many initiatives being put forward by health care providers in these communities to support their residents during this difficult period,” said Strohfeldt. “The drought continues to have an impact across much of our region, and we want to make sure that wherever possible, we can provide an opportunity for people to come together and support one another.”

Additional funding will be used for the Lifeline Darling Downs and South West QLD LTD Community Connections program which will deliver specialised education to these communities. People who participate in this program will learn to recognise and respond to individuals with signs of mental stress, identify the best referral point and provide help with accessing appropriate services.
“We know that stigma can be a real deterrent for people living in rural communities to seek assistance, often local, trusted individuals can provide a safe gateway to care. The Community Connections program upskills community members to recognise and support people who may be struggling and helps to build resilience in these communities for years to come,” says Strohfeldt.

Areas receiving funding are in the Goondiwindi, Southern Downs, Western Downs, Lockyer Valley, Somerset, Toowoomba, Cherbourg and South Burnett local government areas. Federal MPs who represent these areas welcome the funding. “In order to get on top of mental illness we need to be proactive and engage with mental health professionals and participate in wellbeing sessions – there is no judgement in that,” says MP for Maranoa Hon David Littleproud. MP for Groom, Hon Dr John McVeigh says, “Many rural communities are struggling and it’s great to see the work being done with local communities to provide and improve the support for mental health in these regions.”

“It’s great to see the Darling Downs and West Moreton PHN providing further support for mental health in our rural communities. The drought affects everyone differently and we need good support structures in place to help people when they need it,” says MP for Wright, Scott Buchholz.

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