“Living in the country means we all know each other and that can be very difficult, but there are lots of positives too.”
Living away from major cities and towns can have some real benefits, but can also come with challenges. You can be impacted by fewer job and education opportunities, and the effects of living and working in isolation. Depending on where you live, there can also be harsh weather events now and then. All these factors can affect your mental health and wellbeing. So, learning the signs and symptoms of mental health conditions can help you notice them early and take the necessary action.
While people in rural and remote Australia experience mental health issues at the same rate as those in the cities, they can face challenges in accessing health care and support services. Online and telephone support services can help to close this gap by providing instant access to support. Specific support – including for farmers and farming families – is available through mental health websites.
If you are experiencing challenges with your mental health or worried about someone else who may be struggling, it is crucial to reach out to someone who can help.
Strengthening your overall mental health and wellbeing – including taking care of your health and connecting with others – is a positive thing that anyone can do, no matter where you live. Have a look through the meaningful life section on this website for some ideas.
A closer look
Getting help, when help is far away
Rates of mental health issues seem to be much the same in rural and remote Australia as in the cities. What does differ significantly is access to people and services that can help. In remote regions it can be difficult to see a GP - and there are less specialist services. In some places, any kind of help can be many hours or even days away. Online apps and services, chat lines and online community groups are ways for people to get in touch with others and get support and information when face-to-face help is not readily available. (Source)
Men in rural areas are particularly at risk
Life on the land can be challenging, and there is evidence that male farmers can be prone to stress and depression at much higher rates than the general population. However, men on the land may not consider themselves to have any challenge with their mental health and often don’t access the help they need. If you or someone you know is struggling, help is available - check out the resources section of this page, or read our page on seeking support. (Source)
Asking for help
People in rural and remote areas are often self-sufficient and resilient, which means that asking for help may not come naturally. In smaller communities everyone knows everyone else, and some people may not be comfortable seeking support from professionals who are already known to them as neighbours. Online and telephone support services can allow rural and remote people to talk about things that are troubling them with people outside of their communities, and remain anonymous if they wish. (Source)
Rural and remote Australians are happier
Australians who live away from the big smoke have some unique challenges – and some unique benefits as well. In fact, research shows that people in the country are generally happier. Possible reasons for this include connection to the community, a sense of purpose and participation in community activities. There are also higher rates of volunteering – an activity known to improve wellbeing - and people are more likely to pitch in and help each other. (Source)
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have extra challenges
Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people live in remote and very remote areas – making all the difficulties of getting culturally appropriate assistance even more challenging. Concerns about the future, country and loss of cultural identity can be deeply felt, and combined with both the physical and social isolation, can lead to a cycle of distress and hopelessness. There is more information on wellbeing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on these supporting yourself and supporting someone else pages. (Source)
Challenges faced by young people
Young people in rural and remote areas can find that it’s more difficult to be themselves than their city counterparts. Smaller communities can have ways of doing things and expected norms that put pressure on young people to conform. In addition there is the potential of boredom/ loneliness and uncertainty about future prospects. Online social networks have provided opportunities for young people to connect with other like-minded people and get professional support from services that specialise in working with young people. (Source)
Living in the country when you have a mental health problem is easier because it's a small place and you have that informal network – supportive, understanding neighbours or friends. But the cons are that you don't have the choices that people have in the big city. You don't have the access to mental health services. And when things go wrong, it tends to be a whole lot less private.
When I developed my eating disorder, I was living in a small town. The local mental health service only had appointments during school hours and I didn’t want to go because I didn’t want to miss school. I didn’t want to have to explain why I was late to my friends. And then someone had to drive me there – it was just all too hard.
I feel better when I have a plan. The community mental health workers gave me some numbers to ring in case of a crisis, and that makes me feel more settled. I know what to do if everything falls apart.
You might find online and phone-based mental health resources helpful. Some suggestions are below. You can find more with our Search tool (opens in a new tab).