Mental woes in regional WA inspire Dusty Roads forum to help people in the same position

Headshot of Shannon Smith
Shannon SmithGreat Southern Herald
Bronwyen North, Ruth Patterson and Jo Freeman at a Dusty Roads forum in Katanning last month.
Camera IconBronwyen North, Ruth Patterson and Jo Freeman at a Dusty Roads forum in Katanning last month.

Bronwyn North has taken her struggles with living with mental health issues in regional WA and used them to help others.

She knows from experience how hard it can be to find help in isolated areas, so she is bringing forums to the Great Southern in a bid to make a change.

The Dusty Roads Mental Health Forums, which visited Katanning last month and will come to Gnowangerup on Monday, started when the Lake King woman was diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder and panic disorder.

Ms North said she had lived with depression since she was 15, and growing up in the country, she struggled to find help.

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“I do this because I want to help those in rural areas suffering from mental health issues because I felt so helpless myself,” she said.

“Growing up on our family farm in Lake King, I know and understand the isolation plus dealing with a mental illness. I didn’t like doing counselling over the phone, and waiting for the scheduled appointments that came once a month wasn’t enough for me.

“The cost alone to drive somewhere to get help when I needed it was costing us a fortune as a family of six.

“The more I spoke to others like me, the more I found that others felt the same.

“The further you travel from Perth, the worse the issues become.”

In the past year running the forums, she has met some amazing people and learnt a lot about mental health in small towns.

“Rural communities face so many issues and no community is the same,” she said.

“We see stress within agricultural towns whereby not only farmers affected by the weather but the businesses in town as well.

“Then you have the isolation on top of that and access to specialist care is a trip — not just down the road, but hours of driving there and back.” She hopes that by holding these forums, the communities can gain more permanent mental health providers and programs out of Perth.

“I want people to know that we understand and that someone sees them and hears them,” she said.

“Rural communities get left behind when it comes to mental health.

“We want to bring attention to that and help change that narrative.”

Ms North said she would lobby the State Government for more funding for regional mental health services.

Dusty Roads will visit the Gnowangerup Community Resource Centre at 3pm on Monday.

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