AS POLITICIANS argue over the future of forestry, Tasmania's rural communities struggle with stress, substance abuse, relationship problems, depression and suicide.
Nicole Grose and Trevor Chalk see it every day, in their efforts to rebuild communities marred by the uncertainty surrounding a once-booming industry.
As Northern outreach workers for Rural Alive and Well, the Launceston-based pair respond to 24-hour crisis calls, help people through rough times and raise awareness of suicide.
Mr Chalk said they had both started work in January, and were surprised to see the impact of the forestry debate.
``The whole uncertainty in the forestry industry over the last three years, that's put a fairly significant strain on a lot of people . . . there's a high level of need at the moment,'' Mr Chalk said.
``I was surprised with how greatly it affects people within the communities . . . it affects the schools, unemployment and local shops - it just affects so many small towns in so many different ways,'' Ms Grose added.
She said they spent most of their day in the car, responding to calls from forestry organisations, politicians, store owners, friends or neighbours concerned that someone wasn't coping.
``If they're worried about someone, we can cold call them or go meet with them, so the referral process is very, very easy - and flexibility is a key to our role which is really good for rural areas,'' Ms Grose said.
Mr Chalk said there were signs that Rural Alive and Well's work was working - with the pair getting less crisis calls due to a greater awareness of suicide.
``Men in particular are probably more willing to talk about their issues than they were a few years ago, and some of the stigma in rural communities isn't as bad as it used to be - whereas I think there's still that stigma in the urban towns,'' he said.
``I think substance abuse is one of the big issues - alcohol and drugs. That's one of the biggest challenges we've come across . . . and another big thing you will find is loneliness.''
Mr Chalk said it was important that people talked with each other about issues and concerns.
Today is the RU OK? day, an annual event created in 2009 as a reminder to regularly check in on those who might be going through a tough time.
If you need help or counselling contact Samaritans 1300 364 566, Lifeline 131 114, Kids Helpline 1800 551 800, MensLine Australia 1300 789 978, or the StandBy Response Service 24-hour number on 0408 133 884, beyondblue 1300 224 636.