The social and economic impact of drought and bushfires across parts of the country will flow through the affected communities for years, writes Catholic Social Services Australia’s Joe Zabar. Source: The Catholic Leader.
Drought is often described as insidious. It creeps up on you, slowly draining you of energy and hope.
Few will understand the anguish faced by farmers forced to deal with the reality of this current drought, except those living in regional Australia who see their local towns suffer through lack of community activity, the loss of income and prosperity, and increasing suicide rates.
The long-term forecast for rain is not promising. We need rain, but it is continuing uncertainty that heightens personal anguish and despair.
Faith will carry many people through the heartache and pain of the drought. Some will find great comfort in the Church’s call to dedicate the month of November as a time to pray for those affected by crippling drought conditions and to pray for the gift of rain.
For others, it is the knowledge that the drought will eventually break that brings comfort.
Regardless of what brings people strength, natural disasters – whether droughts, fires or floods – take their toll on the mental health of those directly affected and those who support them.
Accessing appropriate mental health supports and services in rural communities, in particular, can be difficult. This is not just because there are fewer mental health services in these areas, but because country people consider themselves to be resilient.
They are often reluctant to seek help through identified counselling and health services.
There are unique challenges in providing mental health, counselling and support services to the communities that most need them.
Catholic social services providers operate across more than 650 sites nationally. Add to this the Vinnies network and parish-based ministries, and the Church has a unique and formidable presence across metropolitan, regional and rural Australia.
There is a richness of community that exists within many of our drought and bushfire-affected communities.
Imagine how much good could be done if we empowered these communities with the tools and knowledge to help their family, friends and community members inside and outside the Church to better deal with the stresses of drought, bushfires and floods.
Joe Zabar is deputy chief executive officer of Catholic Social Services Australia.
Catholic network ready to be part of a solution for people suffering across the country (The Catholic Leader)