Flood and drought devastated North West Queenslanders are calling for a long-term commitment from mental health support services who flocked to the region in the wake of February's massive monsoon event, as stakeholders gather in Cloncurry on November 20 for the first mental health summit since the disaster.
The region's graziers, doctors, mayors and local business operators have heaped praise on the response to the crisis from government, charity and community groups, but acknowledge that the coming months will be "make or break" for many locals.
"The expected rain will bring relief to these communities but with so much stock loss, confidence is so low that difficult decisions to re-stock through more debt will be another heavy burden on primary producers," Western Queensland Primary Health Care CEO Stuart Gordon said.
"In the towns, we see local businesses feeling the pinch because they rely heavily on prosperous farms, however we are seeing countless examples of communities tapping into their own strengths to stay upright, and focus on a positive future, and that's where tailored, non-clinical approaches to mental well-being can work best.
"Tailoring appropriate responses is complex and challenges mental health service providers to work together and continue to provide multi-layered approaches, and it's why we have organised this Summit to hear from those on the ground, who will help us ensure support is delivered in a sustained, consistent and agile way."
The North West Flood Recovery Summit will be attended by all levels of government, graziers, local business operators and clinicians seeking to identify ways to keep recovery efforts on the right path, with a focus on the region's mental well-being.
Julia Creek Grazier Mark Bryant lost 70pc of his livestock in the monsoon event, mainly due to exposure.
"Toward the end of the rain event, in the last three days it was cold, wind chill factor getting down to seven degrees, and driving rain; livestock just can't handle that," Mr Bryant said.
"The cattle were starving but we heard reports of people dropping hay in front of cattle and they'd just walk right past it, the cattle weren't interested in living.
"I think the toughest part is coming, mainly for the towns' small business owners where discretionary spending is going to stop and that could go on for a couple of years. If small businesses disappear out of your service town, then where do you go...the small businesses never recover,"
Elrose Station Owner Roger Jefferis said while affected communities were determined to put the flood event behind them, there's still a strong desire for support services to remain for the long haul.
"I was asked by Shane Stone [Head of the North Queensland Livestock Industry Recovery Agency himself whether we'll get sick of people coming around and talking to you and I, and everyone that was with me, said no way...keep coming, keep talking, and I think that's going to be important for a lot of years," Mr Jefferis said.
"I know it's very hard to tell how people are going because we all say we're going good, it's the old Aussie way, you say 'yeah I'm good', but you're not really."
The Royal Flying Doctors' Service (Qld), co-organiser of the Summit, said it's counter-productive to make assumptions about the mental health support locals might need.
"I think it's absolutely essential to get feedback on the ground, we can't sit here and assume we know how people want to access care or the type of care they want to get, but it's vital that things like the Summit allows us to get that feedback from a whole range of key stakeholders locally," RFDS (Qld) CEO Meredith Staib said.
"The feedback from the teams that we have had in the region is that there's going to be a long-term need for mental health support, and it's important that we are designing services in specific ways to meet that need based on accurate, timely information from those using and delivering those services."
Delegates only event: North West Flood Recovery Summit, 8.30am to 4.30pm, Wednesday November 20 , 37 Scarr Street, Cloncurry, Qld.
While you are here, subscribe to our weekly email newsletter delivered to your inbox at 6am every Friday.