Text help for farmers
IN ANOTHER first for Queensland innovation, a local business is breaking new ground by offering mental health services via SMS to struggling farmers in conjunction with the charity, Aussie Helpers.
Virtual Psychologist, the mental health arm of Aussie Helpers, is a cutting-edge counselling program that delivers vital mental health support via phone, email, online chat, SMS and social media to farmers and graziers affected by drought, isolation and financial pressure.
“What we are offering is a first for Australia,” said Virtual Psychologist CEO and founder, Dervla Loughnane. “Other nationwide counselling services have identified the need for a direct message support program like this but we are the first to offer it.”
Aussie Helpers founder and Senior Australian of the Year (2008), Brian Egan, pledged to bring psychological services to farmers doing it tough after a man, who had lost everything, took his own life.
“Our business has been engaged by Aussie Helpers to help Brian fulfil his vow to offer psychological services to people in the bush,” said Ms Loughnane.
“Farmers are proud, they don’t like to ask for help, it is difficult for them to talk about any issues. The huge distances between farms make it difficult for them to access services or for services to come to them.”
“With digital media, people in need can connect with our clinical psychologists and mental health services relatively easily. We can reach a much greater audience and it offers us a lot of flexibility so we can deliver our services in a way and at a time that suits the graziers.
“Aussie Helpers are already doing an amazing job to help boost people’s spirits with their donations of fodder for animals and food hampers for families. Now they are also able to provide psychological support and mental health education in remote and rural areas,” she said.
Virtual Psychologist, funded by Lions Australia, offers a 24-hour psychological counselling service to drought-affected and struggling farmers via SMS, Chat, email and phone. Face-to-face services are also offered and services are linked to local community-based organisations where possible. The organisation is based on the Gold Coast.
Aussie Helpers is a registered charity run by volunteers to deliver drought relief to families in the bush. It is the only group offering this kind of support.