Daily suicide fear as drought pushes rural Qld to brink
CHARLOTTE Gerhardt can recall a night she and her mother Maree were outside when they heard a gunshot ring out from somewhere on their property, Fairymount.
Her first thought was who it was, not what.
"I was feeding a poddy calf we had dragged out of the mud and mum was hanging out a load of washing when we heard a gunshot," Charlotte said.
"I dropped the bottle, mum stopped what she was doing and we both just stared at each other.
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"She said, 'it's not dad, its ok.'
"We both started moving toward each other and then just stood there."
Then a few minutes later they heard a motorbike approach the house and they learned the gunshot had killed a snake, not a person.
"It wasn't a thought of what the shot was, but who," Charlotte said.
"The thought of it (suicide) is always there.
"We know people who have done it and know people who have been affected by it."
She shares the same concerns of her mum and has told her story in an attempt to illustrate the effect of the drought on farming families.
She said every cow on their property was an animal sincerely cared for to the point it wasn't just a cow but virtually a pet which meant for every one destroyed, there was an emotional impact.
"At the moment we have about 500 (head of cattle)," she said.
"We do not know how many cattle we have lost already, and we cannot say how many more will die or will have to be put down before this ends.
"We certainly aren't counting - it's not something you want to keep a tally of.
"I'm a regular girl and I shouldn't have to know what it is like to kill something you love.
"You wake up in the middle of the night and think about what happened during the day and think about the animal you shot."
Another reason she has shared her story is to make more readily available any psychological and emotional help available.
Although some agencies may exist, Charlotte said they are not easily found out in the bush, government help is impossible to find, and the charities are located too far away in the big cities.
"I know a lot of people that have too easy an access to a weapon, and it's far easier to pick up a gun or drink a litre of poison than it is to Google a help line, then ring a stranger and admit you are struggling," she said.
"This drought is not just environmental - it's political, financial, and emotional.
"This drought began when cattle prices failed to rise with inflation, costs have increased up to 100 times, and our income has not increased since the 80s."
She said the $2.20 per kilogram prices possible in a good season failed to cover the costs of transport and in the current drought, beasts were getting just six cents per kilogram.
She believes the current crippling situation can be traced back to the live export ban two years ago after footage of cows being inhumanely treated surfaced.
"For the sake of a video showing a few cattle - as little as 12 - being inhumanely treated in another country, they shut down a market which in turn collapsed an industry," she said.
"Nobody is remembering the Australian grazier or farmer or food producer of any kind.
"The drought merely was the straw that is now breaking the back of the men and women who carry this country.
"Don't forget us, please."
If you, or someone you know, is experiencing depression, seek help.
Where to get help
- Lifeline Australia: 13 11 14
- aussiehelpers.org.au or 1300 665 232