'It's important to process your grief'
RURAL mental health expert Mary O'Brien had a few words of wisdom for South Burnett locals in light of the recent tragedies on the region's roads: allow yourself to grieve.
Ms O'Brien said the loss of 13 lives on the Burnett's roads in just five months - seven of those lost this week - was a tragedy, and one the community would process together.
"When you're part of a rural community like this, it's almost impossible not to feel the impact of these deaths," Ms O'Brien said.
"Whether you knew them, knew of them, were a first responder, know a first responder, reported on the deaths, saw the crash site, or even just hearing about the circumstances of the death, you will be affected in some way by this trauma.
"It's important to process your grief. To allow yourself to feel."
She said there was often a stigma in rural communities about being vulnerable, and a belief that it made you weak to have feelings.
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"There is strength in acknowledging your feelings and allowing yourself to grieve," Ms O'Brien said.
"My advice is to open up. Talk to someone you know and trust. Have a cry.
"Don't allow your feelings to build up until you're bogged. There are people in the community who care about you. That's what my campaign is about."
Are you bogged mate? is a campaign aimed at addressing mental health issues among rural men.
"Everything I say is also for women, they are no less affected than men, especially in times like these," Ms O'Brien said.
"It's just that when you look at the statistics, men are between three and four times more likely to take their own lives than women are in Australia.
"Then, when you head out here to rural areas it gets even worse. Because we have these unrealistic and ridiculous expectations on our men to be tough and not acknowledge or process their feelings."
Ms O'Brien said she wanted the region's residents to know there were places they could turn to for help, and healthy ways to process these tragedies.
"There are places to turn to for support. You really don't have to look that far," she said.
"But more importantly, your friends, family, and even co-workers are there for you. Please confide in them.
"There will always be a grieving process, and people will move through this at their own pace."