Message ... Former politician and Lifeline patron John Brogden. LEIGH JENSEN
Message ... Former politician and Lifeline patron John Brogden. LEIGH JENSEN

John's call for access

By BELINDA SCOTT

ACCESS to mental health services was a critical issue, John Brogden said yesterday.

Congratulating Southern Cross University as he launched SCU's new rural mental health scholarship program, the former NSW Opposition leader and mental health campaigner said the university had done 'a fantastic thing'.

"Access is critical and very small outside the capital cities," Mr Brogden said.

He said country kids who took up the scholarships were more likely to stay in country communities.

The new program, funded by the university, will provide scholarships worth $5000 a year to selected students in the four-year bachelor of Psychology (Honours) degree at the Coffs Harbour campus.

Mr Brogden said not only were services less easily available to country people, but the celebrated determination and stoicism of country people meant they were also less likely to 'put their hands up' for help.

He said there was a frightening increase in the number of suicides in regional areas, especially among country men, who were particularly affected by the drought and also had greater access to firearms, while many unexplained single-car accidents were considered to be suicides.

Mr Brogden was the guest speaker at a Mental Health Week seminar at the Coffs Harbour Education Campus yesterday which was also part of SCU's Challenging Ideas series of speakers.

The CEO of the Manchester Unity health fund and the patron of Lifeline NSW is himself the survivor of a highly-publicised suicide attempt in 2005 but he said his recovery was a message of hope that 'you can live and love again.'

But he said only 10 per cent of calls to Lifeline were related to suicide, with the service handling problems ranging from loneliness to people needing food vouchers.



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