Hunter Local Land Services and Hunter New England Health joining forces to help producers and their families

WITH heavy frosts, cold winds and dry weather hitting the region in recent weeks, winter has really bitten hard.

So, Hunter Local Land Services (LLS) is joining forces with Hunter New England Health (HNEH) to urge Upper Hunter producers, and their families, to take stock of more than just their land and animals, as the drought continues to make an impact.

The organisations appreciate it can take an emotional toll on people trying to feed and maintain stock and want to help connect the community with local support services.

"Unfortunately nearly 100 per cent of our region remains impacted by drought, with winter conditions impacting remaining crops in the Upper Hunter and worsening feed gap issues in the east of the region around Gloucester and the Upper Manning," LLS general manager Brett Miners said.

"We understand the pressure many producers are under as they try to handfeed and meet energy requirements of their stock, especially those beginning calving or lambing or lactating.

"It is important to ensure you have a long-term view when it comes to feed and water budgeting and you are testing feed to ensure its quality, and where possible selling excess stock to ease the workload and pressure on yourself and property."

Out of the paddock, the ongoing tough conditions are also being felt across the community.

"We know the drought is affecting local families, their farms and also local businesses," Mr Miners said.

"We're seeing these impacts in our producers and we are encouraging them and their families to reach out for help, and also to check on neighbours or others in our farming communities who might be struggling.

"We don't know when it is going to rain, and sadly we can't make it rain, but we can look out for each other and work together to ease the burden wherever we can."

HNEH has also advised it is important to keep an eye on your own health as well as your livestock's.

This drought is unfortunately now in its third year in the Upper Hunter.

If you are feeling like you need to talk to someone, or the impacts are making you feel low or depressed, reach out to your local GP.

Just having a conversation with your family or local doctor is a great start; there are many support services out there we can connect you to.

Hunter New England Health District has established a Drought Support Team who provides mental health and emotional support for farmers, farming families, local businesses and services who have been affected by the drought.

The program is flexible and can offer short conversations and information through to ongoing formal counselling.

A member of the Drought Support Team can visit your farm, home or place of work, or can arrange to meet you any other place when confidentiality can be guaranteed.

To access the service, phone 0477 322 851.

If it's too hard to talk, you can text the Virtual Psychologist.

The Virtual Psychologist offers a text service that you can use from anywhere.

You will be connected with a qualified mental health professional and you can make an appointment to text with the same counsellor again at a day/time convenient to you.

Just text 0488 807 266.

There are some really good resources online too - visit the Rural Adversity Mental Health Program for contacts for support services, tools and tips and local programs and projects across New South Wales at https://www.ramhp.com.au/

For crisis support, phone Lifeline on 13 11 14.

For more information on mental health services in your community, contact the NSW Mental Health Line on 1800 011 511.