Geelong gets dedicated Rural Aid counsellor

December 1, 2021 BY

Sue Jensen is the new Rural Aid counsellor for Geelong. Photo: SUPPLIED

AUSTRALIAN rural charity Rural Aid has made its biggest investment into improving regional mental health to date.

The charity is appointing 10 new counsellors across the country this year, committing $3.75 million over the next three years to help address the yawning gaps in regional mental healthcare.

Nine of Rural Aid’s new counsellors are already in place, actively serving their regional community. Rural Aid counsellors offer free, confidential support to farmers and their families, with Rural Aid’s mental health and wellbeing team preferring to visit farmers on their properties.

Sue Jensen is the new Rural Aid counsellor and community representative in Geelong.

She visits farms from the Macedon Ranges in the north to the South Australian border.

Her previous work as a teacher inspired her to enter the wellbeing domain.

“I am passionate about addressing health gaps in rural and regional Victoria such as isolation, restricted access to health care, lower educational attainment and poor infrastructure,” Ms Jensen said.

She enjoys helping family units tighten their bonds, allowing them to tackle challenges together.

“If there is drought on the farm, it’s affecting the whole family. Rural Aid combines a passion for the love of my country and the people who are so connected to it, to the work I do as a skilled and experienced counsellor.”

Rural Aid chief executive officer John Warlters said the charity’s commitment to placing counsellors in rural Australia will save lives.

“We know people who live regionally have poorer access to health professionals and are more likely to struggle with their mental health due to lack of appropriate and timely support.

“Farmers and rural teenagers have more than double the rate of suicide compared to urban populations. Rural Aid is desperately trying to change that.”

He said Rural Aid’s counsellors were mental wellbeing specialists who counsel, teach and refer clients to higher levels of care.

“We know that investing in early intervention achieves results.

“It leads to a reduction in the number of people who require acute treatment.

“Rural Aid counsellors are qualified to assist farmers across the continuum of mental health, from prevention and early intervention, right through to treatment.

“If we can get to people early, have them recognise symptoms and get some simple but effective strategies, we help them before things escalate to the point they need hospitalisation.”

This will reduce pressure on the health system while prevention strategies will help rural people to live their best lives they can, Mr Warlters said.

“Our counselling program has been highly successful; making a real difference to the farmers that Rural Aid supports.

“Our counsellors work with their community to create and implement vital mental health programs and strategies.

“Rural Aid counsellors build trusted relationships with their local communities. Our counsellors also attend field days, events and natural disaster sites.”

For more information, head to the Rural Aid website.