In the light of the recent international climate change talks in Doha and Australia’s bushfire season, now upon us, now is a good time to revisit a collection of journal papers on climate change and its effects. They are freely available – not just for Christmas but for all time! - in one of the virtual issues of The Australian Journal of Rural Health (AJRH).
Rural residents suffer disproportionately from the natural disasters that are exacerbated by climate change, as David Perkins, editor of the Journal, reminds us. In this themed online issue of AJRH there are several papers about living through drought. 'Rapid change, climate adversity and the next ‘big dry’’ by John D Polain, focuses on older farmers’ mental health. The effect of drought on some Indigenous communities is examined by Colin W Rigby in his paper, ‘If the land’s sick, we’re sick’.
‘In their own words’ by Tracey-Lee Carney examines the effects of drought on young people living in rural areas, while John G Dean and Helen J Stain present the results of their rural study on the ‘Mental health impact for adolescents living with prolonged drought’.
A special report by Denis Muller finds that journalists from all media were profoundly affected by their covering of the Black Saturday bushfires in February 2009. Circumstances made ‘a tough job harder’ and raised many ethical dilemmas. The effect of other climate change induced phenomena (salination, soil erosion, pest infestation and disease) on mental health is discussed in a paper by Shirley A Morrisey and Joseph P Reser.
Ways of improving rural mental health capacity are explored by Gina-Maree Sartore in a study examining Mental Health First Aid training in drought-affected rural areas. The evidence is that this strategy improves communication networks between health and agricultural service professionals, which helps everyone in rural communities.
We need to learn the lessons of natural disasters for practising rural health care and also in formulating policies to protect rural communities from the detrimental physical and mental effects of increasing climatic extremes.
You can gain free access to these papers at www.wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/AJR (click on ‘Virtual issues’ on the left of the screen). And have a happy summer – with no disasters.
Gordon Gregory – NRHA Executive Director: 02 6285 4660