Mental health and wellbeing consultant Cath Walker has been working across regional Queensland for decades.
Mental health and wellbeing consultant Cath Walker has been working across regional Queensland for decades. Laura Blackmore

RFDS psychologist urges people to talk about mental health

"PEOPLE will call us when half of their leg is hanging off without hesitation, but if it's something else that can be just as serious or debilitating, they are hesitant to call out of fear or shame."

Those are the words of Royal Flying Doctor Service mental health and wellbeing consultant Cath Walker, and that "something else" she mentioned refers to mental health problems.

Mrs Walker visited Kingaroy yesterday for the Community Drought Outreach tour.

She said the RFDS decided to join the group of government agencies helping farmers and businesses because of the target areas they would be visiting.

"The event was going through drought-affected areas, which means there can be people who are distressed for various reasons," Mrs Walker said.

"If I just sat at Birdsville with a sign up saying 'psychologist', no one is going to come see me.

 

RFDS Mental Health and Wellbeing Consultant Cath Walker, Farm Liaison Officer Tahna Jackson and James Bredhauer from Aussie Land and Livestock at the Drought Community Outreach event.
RFDS mental health and wellbeing consultant Cath Walker, farm liaison officer Tahna Jackson and James Bredhauer from Aussie Land and Livestock at the Drought Community Outreach event. Laura Blackmore

"Mental health is about raising the awareness."

This aim is particularly important, considering Beyond Blue statistics reveal male farmers die by suicide at significantly higher rates than the general population, and non-farming men.

After decades of working as a nurse, and now as a psychologist for the RFDS, Mrs Walker said there was a particular question that helped get people talking about their problems.

"The way we target a lot of mental health or stress-related problems is by a person's sleep," she said.

"Most people under stress don't sleep very well.

"So, as a communication technique I can say to anyone in the room, 'do you need any brochures on sleep?'

"It is a more palatable way of then leading into them talking about their mental health side and what's happening with them."

 

The RFDS display of different brochures at the Drought Community Outreach event.
The RFDS display at the Drought Community Outreach event. Laura Blackmore

The psychologist said being on the ground and meeting with community members as part of the program gave her the opportunity to connect with those in need.

"I have talked to a lot of people here today," Mrs Walker said.

"I obviously can't be local to all of the areas I visit but I make sure I know what other clinicians there are in the area.

"I think if we can get people talking early on, it will reduce the physical impacts on the body and decrease the chance of developing a more serious condition."

 

Cath Walker has been travelling for the past five weeks with the Drought Community Outreach.
Cath Walker said she was happy to be visiting Kingaroy as part of the five-week tour across regional Queensland with the Drought Community Outreach program. Laura Blackmore