Climate Adversity: Yet Another Stressor for Rural Adolescents (pp. 513-519)
Authors: Helen J. Stain, John Dean, Brian Kelly, Susan Blinkhorn, and Tracey Carnie
Abstract: The idealised rural childhood of freedom, small supportive communities and close connection to the environment does not necessarily serve the psychosocial needs of many adolescents. Factors including locality, social context, infrastructure, service provision and access, labour market, and family and social networks are among determinants of youth mental well being. For rural youth, the problems of isolation and reduced opportunities prompt the most capable to migrate towards larger urban and metropolitan centres for education and employment. There is an adverse impact from the loss of friendships and social support for young people who remain. Coping strategies of rural youth need to be considered in the context of low access to mental health services. Living with drought impacts adversely on family finances, affecting girls and boys differently. Studies in the Australian context demonstrate worsening psychological distress across the community in the face of prolonged drought. Children and adolescents in a drought affected region of New South Wales were participants in two studies, and an increase in psychological distress overtime, and above the general community norms, emerged. Concerns about the drought and its impact on self, friends, family and community were also expressed by students who were boarders in rural schools serving drought affected areas. Rural adolescents have higher rates of risk-taking behaviour, with potential adverse effects on health and mental health. The prolonged drought and climate adversity clearly pose a public health problem, and the voice of young people themselves needs to be heard and addressed.