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Drought endangers rural adolescents
Detail: A new study from the University of Newcastle's Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health has assessed the effect of prolonged drought on the lives of adolescents. The paper to be published in the next edition of the Australian Journal of Rural Health claim: "The social and emotional impacts of this drought have been shown to be similar to the effects of other natural disasters".

The study involved more than 100 young people aged 11 to 17 who lived in the south-west region of NSW as a follow up to a study conducted in the same area in 2004. The 2004 study showed adolescents living in rural Australia were aware of the impact of drought on themselves, their family and community. But they did not report levels of emotional distress higher than similar adolescents in the wider Australian community. It was proposed the rural lifestyle had helped these young people build up resilience.

The follow up study revisited the area, conducted a survey and organized focus groups. The young people identified positive and negative impacts of drought on their community and family: "our house tank is empty and we have to cart water all the time", "can help you realize that a lot of money is not so important, there are other priorities".

The researchers said, "The adolescents spoke of the positive aspects of their country lifestyle including having freedoms at an early age and feelings of safety….They also identified many mental health impacts of the drought such as the stress of making difficult decisions ... and loss."

People living in remote and rural communities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, males aged 25 to 44 and the mentally ill were particularly at risk of suicide. According to The Canberra Times, the Federal Government was searching for a specialist to advise on how to deal with suicide hot spots and preventing copycat suicides. The Australia Suicide Advisory Council, which provides confidential advice to the Government, had identified these as issues that required "increased focus". The successful tenderer is expected to start work in a month and produce the final report in November.
Source: Based on a story by Danielle Cronin, “Drought woes mar rural teens' lives”, Canberra Times (Australia), January 23, 2010 Saturday, Final Edition
Date: February 13 2010