With 100 per cent of the state now declared in drought, many farmers are at breaking point. There is no feed for stock, for farm dogs and often for the farmers themselves.
As a result Ruth Simmons is Rural Aid’s newly appointed rural counsellor for the central west and western NSW.
Ms Simmons works on the road to visit the region’s farmers and speak to them where they need help most.
Rural Aid not only offers counselling services, but has provided food and fuel vouchers, food hampers and hay to registered farmers.
Ms Simmons will check in with farmers on the phone and in person. Based in Narromine, Ms Simmons is a trained counsellor and has experienced first hand the impacts of life on the land.
“I am married to a farmer and I’ve suffered the loss of two properties with him, so I understand how farming blood is in the blood and you can’t get it out,” Ms Simmons said.
“I’ve been through floods and droughts myself plus I’m trained in counselling so I understand the anxiety and depression people are going through.”
Ms Simmons said during tough times it’s important to know you’re not alone, and says many farmers have preferred to speak with her rather than a psychologist as they can relate to her on a personal level.
“People want to be understood.”
She said that while conditions may change, she understands the long term strains that come from a drought.
“The drought will break and it will rain again, and we’ll all be feeling a little better,” Ms Simmons said.
“But it’s going to take a long time to financially recover … I understand about carrying capacities and equity, debt load and all the inputs that are needed to go into farming,”
“At least when they’re taking to me they’re getting an understanding,” she said.
“They can ring me at any time on my work number and have a chat anytime, its all fine.”
Ms Simmons is encouraging farmers register online at buyabale.com.au so she can check in, touch base and simply have a conversation.
“Just to know someone cares, there’s someone on the end of the line that has a rural background,” Ms Simmons said.
“I encourage people to be patient because we do have a phenomenal amount of people who’ve registered and we’re getting through them as fast as we can, but if you’re not registered you can’t get access to sort of anything so it is worthwhile to register and It’s pretty easy,” she said.
“Its about having a chat and just not being alone and feeling alone, because when people feel alone we start to go a bit crazy in our heads.”