A NORTHERN Rivers-based clinical psychologist has warned coal seam gas poses a greater risk to the mental health of rural communities than bushfires, drought or economic recession.
Dr Wayne Somerville, who lives at Toonumbar, west of Kyogle, has been a clinical psychologist specialising in the area of trauma for 30 years.
He claimed coal seam gas devalued rural land and said the anxiety and fear caused by the encroachment of the industry will cause an increase in suicides, anger and violence.
"For a farmer the land is their life's work and the value of that land is often their only superannuation and the only legacy they have for their children," he said.
"My concern is that even though some people will react with depression and some will suicide, in the face of such massive losses of property wealth and their future, some people will react violently with anger and revenge."
Dr Somerville said people living in rural areas had, to date used their anxiety and fear constructively by organising petitions and protests, but he said that would change if the industry was allowed to progress.
"If the danger (of coal seam gas) remains, then the anger will either turn inward as depression or it will turn outward as anger and violence," he said.
"The anger that comes from being harmed by a person who doesn't care for you and means you ill is much harder to resolve than the trauma that comes due to natural disasters.
"Stories of ruined lives are not the fantasy of a few radicals, they are reality."
About 550 people attended a rally in Kyogle on Sunday as part of a national day of action against coal-seam gas.
WHERE TO GO FOR HELP
SANE Australia Helpline: 1800187263
Beyondblue information line: 1300224636
Reach Out! Youth website: www.reachout.com.au
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