Centracare psychologist Tim Rawson considers the personal cost of poverty

Poverty: Many rural Australians struggle with financial hardship but help is available. Photo: Heidi Gibson
Poverty: Many rural Australians struggle with financial hardship but help is available. Photo: Heidi Gibson

“I’ve seen parents going without food so their children can eat well and having meetings at schools because they can’t manage to pay for books or uniforms,” Centacare psychologist for the New England North West region, Tim Rawson, said. 

He is speaking about rural poverty and some of the impacts he has seen during his eight years of mental health work as droughts, low incomes and variety of other economic and personal circumstances lead many into financial hardship. 

The problem with poverty, he explains, is the wide-ranging or “global” effect it has on people: “It impacts both physical and mental health.”

Those effects can include increased stress, depression, a sense of shame and failure, and an increased risk of suicide. 

“As a result of poverty people are often going without and they can be neglecting their health,” Mr Rawson said adding that stress can also trigger problems like high blood pressure and heart issues.

Emotionally, he says people can also feel a sense of shame and failure that leads them to socially isolate themselves.

“A large problem is because of that feeling of shame and social isolation people are less likely to talk about [the issues] and realise they’re not alone in the situation,” he said. 

“I want to encourage people to please reach out.” 

Mr Rawson said Centacare has a variety free and paid services available across the region. The agency, not to be confused with the similarly named Australian “Centrelink” service, has offices in seven locations across the New England North West region including Glen Innes, Inverell and Armidale; but they also offer telephone and video support: “We’re aware of the challenges of accessing people in regional areas so we try not to let distance get in the way,” he said. 

To learn what Centacare services are available in your area call 1800 372 826. 

Other services, apart from Centacare, Mr Rawson said include Lifeline, available 24/7, on 13 11 14; and the Suicide call back service on 1300 659 467.