A study to gain a better understanding of how rural community life affects the wellbeing of people has been launched by the University of Newcastle's Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health (CRRMH).
Researchers are aiming to recruit 400 households across the Far West of New South Wales to take part in the study.
Director of the CRRMH, Professor Brian Kelly, said the study was unique in Australia.
"This is the first study in Australia to focus exclusively on the mental health and wellbeing of people living in rural and remote communities," Professor Kelly said.
"We will be asking people how they feel about their community and how they have been affected by some of the pressures facing rural areas, such as the drought.
"The study will help us learn more from rural people about what health services they use and need, what people find is working well in their district, and what services could be improved."
A random selection of households, drawn from the Australian Electoral Roll, will soon start to receive letters inviting them to take part in the study.
Willing participants will be asked to complete and return a questionnaire. Around two weeks later participants will receive another longer survey and some will then be asked to take part in a telephone interview.
All answers will be kept strictly confidential and no participants will be identified when the findings are reported.
"The study is not just about people who are suffering from a mental illness. Everyone's views count regardless of age, background or circumstances," Professor Kelly said.
"We are every bit as interested in the factors that contribute to people enjoying good health or the factors that might help to slow the progress of, and recovery from, mental illness."
The study is being led by the CRRMH, based in Orange, with the assistance of the University of Sydney's Broken Hill Department of Rural Health.
When the study has been completed, the findings will be presented to local health administrators for consideration in health service planning.