Rural Alive and Well (RAW) is a not-for-profit organisation formed to create resilience and capacity of men, their families and the community to react to challenging life experiences with particular emphasis on suicide prevention, mental health and wellbeing. The focus is providing outreach support to males within rural communities across Tasmania as well as working with the communities to undertake wellbeing initiates. RAW’s outreach program is exceptional in that it goes to the men in their workplace or on their farm, wherever they feel comfortable to have a chat.
RAW was founded by a group of community members, after the devastating event of a cluster of male suicides that occurred in the Central Highlands. This year, RAW celebrates a decade of providing support to rural Tasmania. RAW started out with one half-time worker in a donated ute, dropping into farms in the Midlands area and having a chat with local farmers. Today, RAW has 16 staff state-wide providing support to all of rural Tasmania including Bruny, King and Flinders Islands. Over the last 10 years, RAW has expanded service provisions to include counselling and support, training, capacity building, disaster relief and operate a 24hr/7 days a week crisis line 1300 HELPMATE.
RAW advocates that suicide prevention along with mental health and wellbeing is a topic close to everybody’s heart, in particular in the farming community. Suicide is a topic that needs to be brought out of the shadows and that needs to be addressed. People need education on the warning signs and know how and where to find help. Prevention requires everyone to be aware of suicide risks, it takes education, shared understanding and increasing resilience in a community to actually help prevent suicide.
RAW is a very unique concept through the programs are delivered, which contributes to its ongoing success. RAW outreach workers have high expertise in building rapport and trust with males in the community and understands most males will not go to their doctor for help. Staff at RAW have built a very strong trust with each person they visit; men talk to outreach workers like they are chatting with a good friend who listens and the team know how to help. RAW uses male-specific language and ideas that men can relate to and use the notion of not seeking ‘help’ but rather building skills, gaining strategies and working out a plan to get back to full strength.
RAW undertakes traditional male industry suicide prevention training throughout Tasmania i.e. TasNetworks, Mining Industry and Housing Industry Association. The organisation employs people with real-life experiences that men can connect with and upskills them, staff include; former baker, a truck driver, a firefighter and an engineer to mention some. Many other organisations in this space have a majority female staff count due to the fact this makes up the majority of the caring sector. RAW engages staff who have lived experience and males relate closer to those who have experienced mental illness and suicidality because they feel understood. RAW has strong industry support through the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association, Tas Dairy and Mining companies where men are most dominant which is why men are referred for support.
Throughout its various programs, RAW has provided support to thousands of males and their families across the state and is your mate in tough times.