TWO faculties from the University of Canberra are providing support for drought-affected rural communities, with a caravan of researchers leaving tomorrow (Saturday, November 17) for the pilot of the “Creative Arts and Rural Health Initiative” in Condobolin.
Faculty of Arts and Design and Faculty of Health staff and students will be travelling west in the university’s big white-and-blue mobile clinic, the “Mobile Health Hub”, which, they say, will serve as a nerve centre for many program activities planned from November 19 to 23.
“When it comes to drought relief, many people have jumped on board to provide food,” said project manager Ian Drayton.
“These are great efforts, but I think we need to look at what’s going on in the mental health space as well.”
Dean Buckmaster, senior lecturer in psychology, also stressed the psychological impact of the drought, noting 2016 statistics from the Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health, which show that suicide rates outside Australia’s greater capital cities account for 42 per cent of suicide deaths nationally.
Funded by the National Farmers’ Federation, the program has at its heart a series of creative arts workshops that will be informed by the ARRTS creative arts recovery program that UC has been running for Department of Defence veterans suffering from trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The project will see a mix of creative writing and visual arts, which, Jordan Williams, associate Prof of arts and communication, says “will be like creative bungee-jumping for us as facilitators”.
All the while, Dr Buckmaster and other clinical psychologists from the faculty of health will also be providing free mental health services to the community and conducting a “needs analysis” across Condobolin to help plan long-term mental health support programs for the community.
The project team will also include researcher Paul Collis, a Barkindji man, who will be conducting writing workshops for teenagers, and well-known art therapist Bridie Macgillicuddy.