The Duke of Sussex used his speech in front of farmers in Dubbo, New South Wales to address high suicide rates in rural and remote areas
On a tour of Australia, Prince Harry was joined by his wife Meghan Markle as he urged men experiencing ill-health to reach out for help.
Speaking ahead of the start of the Invictus Games this weekend, the Prince acknowledged that males living in out-of-town communities are experiencing significant mental health issues.
He said: “We know that suicide rates in rural and remote areas are greater than in urban populations and this may be especially true among young men in remote regions.
“But outside all of that here’s what I also know. You are one huge community and with that comes an unparalleled level of internal support and understanding. All you need to do is to ask for it. Ask your neighbour, your peer, your fellow farmer is literally right around the corner.
“Chances are they may well be suffering too and will relish the opportunity to either listen or talk themselves.”
His calls are backed by research conducted by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in 2013.
It found “many examples” where unavailability of resources was leading to “unfulfilled healthcare needs.” A Royal College of Psychiatrists study in 2017, also found that social isolation raises the risk of premature death by 30%.
In Australia, rural suicide rates are around 50% higher than cities - remoteness, a lack of opportunities and inadequate mental health services are being blamed for the gap.
Farmers have seen tough drought conditions over the past year, and have revealed the effect it has had on their health. One farmer, Steve Germon, told the Sydney Sunday Telegraph: “Between the low milk price, not being able to feed my cattle properly and seeing all my hard work slip away, I nearly came to suicide twice, as recently as 10 months ago.”
The New South Wales state government last month announced plans to fund an additional 20 counsellors.
Gary Bentley, a counsellor with the charity Rural Aid, said: “It's the face-to-face discussions and the face-to-face counselling that is the most effective, so any initiative in that direction is welcome.
“One rainfall doesn't end the drought — the physical recovery will take a long time and certainly the psychological recovery will take even longer.”
The Prince revealed in 2017 that he had sought counselling after living two years of “total chaos” in his late twenties, where he struggled to come to terms with the death of his mother two decades before.
He went on to set up the Heads Together initiative, which he along with his brother and sister-in-law The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge spearhead. It combines a campaign to tackle stigma and change the conversation on mental health.
Initially reluctant to seek help, Harry says he is in a good place and revealed asking for mental health support was one of the best decisions he ever made.
He said: “You need to know a part of being strong and tough is having the courage to ask for help when you need it.
“You must not silently suffer. You are all in this together and if I may speak personally we are all in this together, because asking for help was one of the best decisions that I ever made.
“You will be continually amazed how life changes for the better.”
If you or a loved one would like more information, or to seek mental health support from an accredited professional, visit Counselling Directory.