Hitting the road to help

Headshot of Kellie Balaam
Kellie BalaamNarrogin Observer
Gen Belli, Bronwyen North and Jo Freeman.Picture: Cally Dupe
Camera IconGen Belli, Bronwyen North and Jo Freeman.Picture: Cally Dupe

Newly formed not-for-profit organisation Dusty Roads WA is dedicated to shining a light on mental health in rural areas and will officially launch at this year’s Wagin Woolorama.

Bronwyen North founded the group after experiencing depression and anxiety from a young age.

Ms North was inspired to create the group after discovering there was limited help for country people needing mental health services.

“We don’t have enough counsellors or therapists, we have under-trained GPs trying to deal with mental health and they don’t have the skills,” Ms North said.

“We don’t have recovery programs in rural WA. Rural WA deals with so much isolation, and there is ... stigma attached, of seeking help.”

The first initiative for Dusty Roads WA involves the Farm to Farm program, to be trialled from the Central Wheatbelt, in which a qualified counsellor goes directly to farms, free, for 12 months.

“Farmers, especially the older generation, have a ‘She’ll be right’ attitude and they don’t want to get help,” Ms North said.

“We want to encourage people to have that conversation about mental health, that it’s a normal conversation, not an exceptional one,” Ms North said.,, not an R U OK Day one, just a normal everyday conversation.”At the moment, the group is being funded by Ms North, but they are reaching out for sponsorships and grants for the Farm to Farm program to be able to employ a councillor to go out to farms.

Dusty Roads WA member Gen Belli said she too had personal experiences with depression.

“I was admitted to hospital and living in a country town word got out. When I left hospital, people would avoid me in the streets so they didn’t have to have that conversation with me,” she said.

“What we want to do is have those people come back over and ask and say hey, how are you going, how can I help.”

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